Column: Risk Management

Waiving Stupidity

By: | February 20, 2017 • 2 min read
Joanna Makomaski is a specialist in innovative enterprise risk management methods and implementation techniques. She can be reached at [email protected]

I happened to catch the movie “King Kong” on TV this week. Even though I knew the fictional plot, the fatal outcome for King Kong lingered in my mind. I think it was because I am tired of seeing beautiful majestic creatures captured, caged and turned into circus acts.

Then we the humans are surprised when they get angry and turn on us. One truth seems to hold true — it never ends well for the innocent animal.

Coincidentally, this week I read about “Humpback,” a 12-foot-long alligator caught on video from the Circle B Bar Reserve in Florida. He became an instant attraction on social media due to his absolute mammoth size and lumbering gait.

Reserve workers expressed concern about Humpback’s new celebrity status: “Humpback has lived his life out here, and we want him to live the remainder of his life out here. We don’t want to have to destroy him because somebody was doing something they should not have been doing.”

It should be widely understood as a social contract that if you are doing something you have been told not to do because it is dangerous, and you do it anyway and get hurt, no one is to blame for your hurt but you.

It was frustrating to read. It should be widely understood as a social contract that if you are doing something you have been told not to do because it is dangerous, and you do it anyway and get hurt, no one is to blame for your hurt but you.

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Compare it to, say, skydiving. Caveat: I have never tried it as the sheer thought of plummeting from a plane and having to rely on my wits to pull a rip cord scares me to my core. But if one day I do try it and I get hurt, I know no one is to blame but me.

Sadly, we risk managers all too often need to manage outrageous and ridiculous claims or lawsuits that involve persons not wanting to take accountability for their own irresponsible behaviors. I find this the hardest part of our job as risk managers.
I empathize with the Florida reserve. Now due to some individual’s insatiable thirst for an adrenaline-filled adventure, poor Humpback is in potential jeopardy and so is the reserve.

An animal reserve or refuge is typically run on charitable donations and not rich with funds. Now they may need to consider having visitors sign a waiver before visiting their premises. Fortunately, waivers are still mostly enforceable in Florida.

What is interesting about waivers is that it is a contract that tries to absolve, say, a reserve from fault or liability for injuries that result from their “ordinary” negligence as long as the reserve uses “ordinary” care for its visitor.

What is appropriate care in this situation? How can we save Humpback if he defends himself and creates a ruckus?

“Do not go anywhere near the mammoth alligator that is the size of a small car because he can kill you,” should say the future sign posted every 100 feet around the premises of the reserve. Is that “ordinary” enough? Is it a reasonable action that a prudent professional reserve would take under the circumstances? For Humpback’s sake, I sure hope so. &

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