On June 20, 2017, local lawyer Benjamin Greene collapsed and died while running in a 5K run at Hart Park. Temperatures were soaring in Bakersfield during the race, hovering around 107 degrees.
Immediately, civil liability and legal questions arose, and local media contacted the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles for expert legal opinions.
Questions circled around waivers distributed to all runners by Bakersfield Track Club, water and hydration stations available during the event, aid stations and medical care on site, “assumption of risk,” gross negligence, and more.
Chain | Cohn | Stiles personal injury lawyer Matthew Clark was interviewed by The Bakersfield Californian about the incident. Clark stated it was too early to come to any hard and fast conclusions about the circumstances behind the tragedy — Greene left behind a wife and nine children.
Legally speaking, Clark said, it was important to explore two major areas in investigating the question of civil liability: the waiver ostensibly signed by each 5K participant, and a legal doctrine known as “assumption of risk.”
“Was there a waiver?” Clark stated in The Bakersfield Californian. “Was it signed for that event, that date? Did it have all the right language?”
According to the track club’s website, the waiver reads as follows:
“In consideration of this entry acceptance, I hereby for myself, my heirs, executors, and administrators, waive all of my rights for damages I may have against the County of Kern, the Bakersfield Track Club, the race sponsors, or any individual associated with the above and for all injuries sustained by me in this event. I attest and verify that I am physically fit and have sufficiently trained for this race.”
KERO-23, ABC News interviewed Chain | Cohn | Stiles attorney Neil Gehlawat, also discussed the waiver issue in relation to the “assumption of risk doctrine,” which looks at whether a person knows the inherent risks and dangers for participation. Greene posted on Facebook before the race that he was nervous about the race, and his preparedness.
On KERN Radio 1180, Chain | Cohn | Stiles managing partner David Cohn told host Richard Beene that the No. 1 factor in determining the liability is the cause of death, as well as the waiver issue. The Kern County Coroner’s Office has not yet released the cause of death.
- Bakersfield Track Club speaks out after death of Benjamin Greene (KERO-23, ABC — June 22, 2017) (Video Only)
- Analysis: The liability questions in the death of Bakersfield attorney Benjamin Greene (KERN Radio 1180 — June 22, 2017) (Audio Only)
- Could Ben Greene’s tragic death at 5K result in legal action? (Bakersfield Californian – June 26, 2017) (Newspaper Version)