IN THE COURT OF APPEALS OF IOWA
No. 2-163 / 01-1593
Filed August 14, 2002
DORIS F. ADAMS,
FRIEDEN, INC., f/k/a FREIDEN RACING, INC., d/b/a FARLEY MOTOR SPEEDWAY, and
NATIONAL ASSOCIATION FOR STOCK AUTO RACING, a/k/a NASCAR,
Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Dubuque County, James
Doris Adams appeals from a summary judgment ruling precluding
her personal injury action based on a release of liability. AFFIRMED.
Bruce Braley of Dutton, Braun, Staack, Hellman, P.L.C., Waterloo, for
J. Richard Johnson and Matt Reilly of White & Johnson, Cedar Rapids,
Heard by Vogel, P.J., and Miller and Vaitheswaran, JJ.
Doris Adams was injured in the pit area of an automobile racetrack
and sued Frieden, Inc. and the National Association for Stock Auto Racing.
The defendants moved for summary judgment on the ground that Adams had
signed a release of liability before entering the pit. Adams filed a
belated resistance and affidavit, contending she was legally blind. The
court overruled the defendants' timeliness objection but ruled in their
favor on the merits of their summary judgment motion. On appeal, Adams
claims the release was unenforceable against her. We affirm.
I. Timeliness of Resistance
As a preliminary matter, we address the defendants' contention that
Adams' resistance to their summary judgment motion was untimely. Our
review of this issue is for abuse of discretion. Kulish v. Ellsworth, 566
N.W.2d 885, 890 (Iowa 1997).
Iowa Rule of Civil Procedure 1.981 provides that any party resisting a
motion for summary judgment "shall file within ten days from the time when
a copy of the motion has been served a resistance." Adams' resistance was
filed twenty-two days after the summary judgment motion was served. We
nevertheless conclude the district court did not abuse its discretion in
overruling the defendants' timeliness objection, in light of Adams'
assertion that the resistance was filed well in advance of the scheduled
hearing on the motion. Accordingly, we proceed to the merits.
II. Release of Liability
The key question is whether the "Release and Waiver of Liability and
Indemnity Agreement" that Adams concedes she signed is enforceable against
her. We review the district court's ruling to determine whether there are
any genuine issues of material fact precluding summary judgment and whether
the defendants are entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Walls v. Jacob
North Printing Co., Inc., 618 N.W.2d 282, 284 (Iowa 2000). We view the
evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Id.
We begin with Huber v. Hovey, 501 N.W.2d 53, 56-57 (Iowa 1993), which
upheld the enforceability of a virtually identical release in an identical
setting. The court held: (1) the release was not against public policy,
(2) the plaintiff could not avoid the effect of the release on the ground
he failed to read it, and (3) the defendants were not required to inform
the plaintiff of the risks associated with the pit area of a racetrack,
absent a showing the risks were unusual. Huber, 501 N.W.2d at 55-56; see
also Bashford v. Slater, 250 Iowa 857, 865, 96 N.W.2d 904, 909 (1959)
(injured flagman's release enforceable).
Adams contends Huber is not dispositive because: (1) unlike the
plaintiff in that case, she is blind and (2) she did not understand the
nature of the document she was signing.
A. Blindness. Adams points out she has extremely restricted vision
in her right eye and almost no vision in her left eye, wears glasses that
provide her with 20/200 vision in the right eye and 20/800-1000 in the left
eye, and is unable to read regular print without a strong magnifying glass,
which she did not have with her on the day of the race. She maintains that
her vision impairment prevented her from reading the release before she
signed it, rendering the release unenforceable against her. The problem
with her contention, however, is that our highest court has not carved out
a disability exception to the general rule that people are bound by
documents they sign even if they have not read them. Huber, 501 N.W.2d at
55; accord Advance Elevator Co., Inc. v. Four State Supply Co., 572 N.W.2d
186, 188 (Iowa Ct. App. 1997). Instead, the court has adhered to the long
established rule that a party who "is able to read and has the opportunity
to do so" must suffer the consequences of failing to do so. See Crum v.
McCollum, 211 Iowa 319, 323, 233 N.W. 678, 680 (1930); accord Morgan v.
American Family Mut. Ins. Co., 534 N.W.2d 92, 99 (Iowa 1995); Cronbaugh v.
Farmland Mut. Ins. Co., 475 N.W.2d 652, 654 (Iowa Ct. App. 1991). Contrast
Eder v. Lake Geneva Raceway, Inc., 523 N.W.2d 429, 433 n. 4 (Wis. Ct. App.
1994) (holding racetrack release void as against public policy).
There is no question on this record that Adams was able to read
despite her vision impairment and had the opportunity to do so. Before she
retired, she worked for the government reviewing magnified vouchers for
subsidized housing. In her free time, she enjoyed reading paperbacks with
the aid of her magnifying glass. She was able to read some of the enlarged
portions of the release of liability, such as the pit pass number and the
line "THIS IS A RELEASE OF LIABILITY," without the benefit of her
magnifying glass. She conceded in her deposition testimony that, with
magnification, she could read smaller print. She did not deny that she was
given the chance to read and sign the release and further conceded that the
release was on a clipboard, allowing her to bring the document closer to
her eyes to read it. Therefore, she is bound by the terms of the release
despite her eye impairment.
B. Nature of Release. Adams states she understood the release form
to be simply a "pit pass" that was for entrance and head count purposes
only. She notes that employees at the track referred to the release form
as a pit pass and as a "free sign in sheet." She also contends her
misunderstanding of the nature of the document she was signing was
exacerbated by the fact that the clip on the clipboard holding the release
obscured the key waiver language.
We believe Adams' misunderstanding concerning the nature of the
release could have been cured by reading it, bringing us full circle to the
black letter rule that failure to read a release generally is not a defense
to its enforceability. Huber, 501 N.W.2d at 56. We also note that the
statement "I have read the release" appeared in red ink just above Adams'
signature and Adams does not contend that portion of the release was
obscured by the clip on the clipboard.
For these reasons, we conclude the release was enforceable and the
district court correctly granted summary judgment in favor of the
 If there are error preservation problems with this issue, as Adams
contends, we elect to bypass them. State v. Taylor, 596 N.W.2d 55, 56