SB 1458, sponsored by Jacksonville Sen. Clay Yarborough, would shift liability burdens in many cases to skaters and patrons rather than management and ownership, with the goal of lowering insurance premiums for owners and operators of the roughly 41 rinks operating in the Sunshine State.
What the bill calls “allocation of risks and costs” bears a disproportionate impact on rink owners and operators, preventing the insuring of these operations from being “economically feasible” for carriers. This bill would shift the burden to the consumer, aligning it with similar statutory language covering skateboarding, inline skating, paintball, and freestyle, mountain and off-road bicycling.
Owners “face great difficulty in obtaining liability insurance coverage at an affordable cost and that the lack of affordable insurance coverage affects not only owners of roller-skating rinks, but also persons who may suffer personal injuries or property damages as a result of accidents that occur on the premises of a roller-skating rink,” the bill contends.
The goal is to limit exposure to insurance claims and liability suits by accentuating risk mitigation strategies. Owners would bear the responsibility of prominently posting at least three signs informing skaters and patrons of their risks, as well as having at least one manager on hand for every 200 customers.
They are also charged with keeping the skating surface in a “reasonably safe” condition, including repairing known issues, and installing and maintaining fire extinguishers.
Skaters, of course, bear the ultimate responsibility, in what Yarborough called an “attempt to strike the right balance.”
The bill requires they maintain “reasonable control” of speed and direction, as well as “proper awareness” of potential hazards — including other skaters and inanimate objects.
Florida would join Alabama, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Michigan, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina and Texas with legislation governing rink liability if this bill becomes law.
The House version of the bill (HB 1129) has also cleared all committees.
The bill, sponsored by Orlando Rep. Susan Plasencia, is ready for consideration by the full House and is on the Second Reading calendar.