“We will not be responsible for any damage or loss caused by fire or theft."
Have you ever read a sentence like that? It is a limitation or exclusion of responsibility clause. It is also called a disclaimer.
These are statements that people or companies sometimes make in contracts or on signs, tickets, receipts or other places. The purpose is to exclude or limit that person's or the company's responsibility if you suffer harm while using their services, facilities, property, etc.
In other words, even if you sued someone for the harm you suffered because of his fault, he could use this kind of statement to reduce his responsibility or shield himself completely.
However, a limitation or exclusion of responsibility clause is not always valid, even if it is clearly visible or is in a contract.
Contracts Between Consumers and Merchants
If you are a consumer doing business with a merchant, the law says that the merchant cannot limit or exclude his responsibility. (A merchant is a person doing business.) In other words, you don't have to worry about a limitation or exclusion of responsibility clause in these situations: they aren't valid!
You could therefore take legal action against these people, for example:
- The grooming company that hurt your pet.
- The fitness studio where you dislocated your shoulder on a machine that wasn’t properly maintained.
- The mover who damaged your sofa.
Contracts Between Individuals
Valid Only for Damage to Property
A person you deal with can exclude or limit his responsibility for damage to your property if all of these conditions are met:
- You're aware that there’s a limitation or exclusion clause in the contract
- The clause is clearly written and you understand what it means.
- You agreed to receive the service, use the facility, rent the item, etc., despite that there was this kind of clause.
Always Responsible for Intentional or Reckless Behaviour
A clause limiting or excluding responsibility for property will never apply when the person you are dealing with under a contract caused you damage intentionally or due to recklessness, carelessness or extreme negligence.
No Limitation or Exclusion for Physical or Psychological Injuries!
In a contract between individuals, even where there’s a limitation or exclusion of responsibility clause, you can sue someone who causes you physical or psychological harm.
For example, if your neighbour gives you bad advice and you hurt yourself riding his horse, you can sue him. He could be held responsible even if you signed a document with a clause that limits or excludes his responsibility.
This article explains in a general way the law that applies in Quebec. This article is not a legal opinion or legal advice. To find out the specific rules for your situation, consult a lawyer or notary.