Washington Law Review


In Bennett v. Shinoda Floral, Inc., the Washington Supreme Court departed from a national trend toward flexibility in permitting avoidance of personal injury releases. The plaintiffs in Bennett had signed releases of all claims, known and unknown. The plaintiffs were unaware of the extent or consequences of their injuries, but they had signed knowing that the injuries were not yet healed. The court held that the releases were binding because the plaintiffs had assumed the risk of any unforeseen consequences. The Bennett opinion followed two lines of analysis. First, the court held that the validity of a release is an issue of fact only if the injured person was unaware of any injury at the time of release. Second, the court held that under contract law a mistake about the extent or consequences of an injury was not grounds for avoiding an unambiguous release. The decision left open the question of whether a release binds a person who knows of an injury but is unaware of a separate, collateral injury.

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