injured when sports equipment which he had rented at a resort allegedly malfunctioned.
Despite Gimpel's efforts to distinguish Zimmer on the basis of the nature of the resort, we are not persuaded that the Superior Court was responding to a need for heightened protection for ski resorts as compared to other kinds of resorts when it upheld the exculpatory clause at issue in that case. Rather, we believe that guests at all types of resorts are in essentially the same position when they seek to rent equipment. Thus, we conclude, as did the Pennsylvania Superior Court, that the contract at issue here, which concerns a pre-printed rental agreement containing the exculpatory clause, contravenes no policy of the law, was between private parties and that each party was a free bargaining agent. Consequently, the clause is valid.
Next, we consider whether the clause expressly provides for Host's immunity from liability and whether Host has borne its burden of proof in the matter. It is clear that the language of the clause is both detailed and unequivocal in releasing Host from liability for negligence in connection with the rental of the bicycle. Moreover, Host has produced the "Ride Charge Agreement" which Gimpel identified at his deposition as the agreement he signed before he obtained the bicycle. (Exhibit "D" to Memorandum of Law in Support of the Answer of the Plaintiffs to Motion for Summary Judgment, Doc. #8). Therefore, we conclude that the exculpatory clause is enforceable against the plaintiff.
Despite the similarity of this case to the Zimmer case and the clear conformity of the clause at issue to the analysis set forth in Employers Liability, Gimpel nevertheless contends that those cases should not be applied and summary judgment granted against him. He argues that the Court should examine the entire transaction according to general rules of contract construction. Gimpel contends that an interpretation of the contract in light of all the circumstances will lead to the conclusion that he did not intend to consent to releasing Host from liability for his injuries.
Essentially, Gimpel's argument is that the Employer's Liability and Zimmer cases should only be applied after a court has determined that the clause at issue in the contract was within the "circle of assent" of the parties. Gimpel further contends that such a clause can fulfill that antecedent requirement only if the clause is found to be conspicuous and if the party against whom it is sought to be enforced admits that he read the clause before signing the contract.
Gimpel asserts that the Zimmer court " sub silentio " made those findings but that neither condition has been fulfilled in this case. The Court can find no support in Pennsylvania case law for imposing the additional conditions for which Gimpel argues. Rather, we believe that the only dispositive factor in determining the parties' intentions is whether the contract was signed, as it certainly was in this case. The signature attests to assent, rendering it unnecessary to inquire into other circumstances surrounding the transaction except for those to be considered in deciding whether an exculpatory clause meets the criteria for validity and enforceability.
We find no merit in Gimpel's argument that he "couldn't" read the contract before he signed it. Although he did not have his reading glasses with him when he arrived at the rental office, he could have requested that either the friend who accompanied him or Host's employee read the agreement to him before he signed it. Having already concluded that he was a free bargaining agent, we can find no basis for Gimpel's argument that Host's employee was obliged to call his attention to the exculpatory clause and its implications.
In summary, we conclude that the exculpatory clause at issue here meets the conditions set forth by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court for both validity and enforceability. Moreover, we reject plaintiff's attempt to engraft additional conditions onto the plain requirements of Pennsylvania law. For the foregoing reasons, we will grant Host's motion for summary judgment. An appropriate order follows.
AND NOW, this 24th day of July, 1986, upon consideration of defendant's motion for summary judgment and plaintiff's response thereto, IT IS ORDERED that the motion is GRANTED and judgment is entered in favor of the defendant and against the plaintiffs.