The SCA Liability Waiver Was Changed in December 2021

TL;DR: The SCA made minor changes to the standard liability waiver agreement we use at events and practices, removing a couple of clauses and tweaking the punctuation.

In the course of this update, an error was introduced in the roster form that garbled the meaning of one of the sentences, but because the populace hadn’t been notified of the change, people didn’t look closely at the new form, and the error went uncorrected for more than a year and a half.

At the end of December 2021, the SCA relocated its corporate office for the first time in decades, shifting from Milpitas CA to San Jose, about five miles south. As a result, the mailing address shown on a variety of standard forms and documents had to be updated, including some that hadn’t been changed in more than twenty years.

Apparently this update to the forms was also viewed as an opportunity to revise the wording of the SCA’s liability waiver, a standard document used at nearly every Society event and practice, in which participants agree not to sue the SCA or its officers for any harm they experience at the event. This agreement doesn’t change often; the version that had been on the website prior to that point contained metadata indicating that it was converted to PDF in 1998 by Rabah az-Zafar.

The changes were relatively minor, and mostly consisted of removing text that didn’t substantially change its legal effect. (They also removed a stray apostrophe, and an Oxford comma, and changed the capitalization of “Rules.”)

Here is the text of the 1998 agreement, with passages removed marked in red and insertions marked in blue.


I, the undersigned, do hereby state that I wish to participate in activities sponsored by the international organization known as the Society for Creative Anachronism, Inc., a California not-for-profit corporation (hereafter “SCA”).

The SCA has rules which govern and may restrict the activities in which I can participate. These rules include, but are not limited to: Corpora, the By-laws, the various kingdom laws and the Rules rules for combat related activities.

The SCA makes no representations or claims as to the condition or safety of the land, structures or surroundings, whether or not owned, leased, operated or maintained by the SCA.

I understand that all activities are VOLUNTARY and that I do not have to participate unless I choose to do so. I understand that these activities are potentially dangerous or harmful to my person or my property, and that by participating I voluntarily accept and assume the risk of injury to myself or damage to my property.

I understand that the SCA does NOT provide any insurance coverage for my person or my property. I acknowledge that I am responsible for my safety and my own health care needs, and for the protection of my property.

In exchange for allowing me to participate in these SCA activities and events, I agree to release from liability, agree to indemnify, and hold harmless the SCA, and any SCA agent, officer, or SCA employee acting within the scope of their duties, for any injury to my person or damage to my property.

This Release shall be binding upon myself, successors in interest, and/or any person(s) suing on my behalf.

I have read the statements in this document. I agree with its terms and have voluntarily signed it. I understand that this document is complete unto itself and that any oral promises or representations made to me concerning this document and/or its terms are not binding upon the SCA, its officers, agents and/or employees.


These same changes were made both to the individual signature form, and to the “roster form” version of the liability waiver, which has room for multiple signatures and is frequently used at events and practices where multiple people will sign in rapid succession. (For whatever reason, the phrasing of the liability waiver for minors does not appear to have been changed.)

Unfortunately, in the course of applying the changes to the roster form, an error was made, perhaps due to a mistake while copy-and-pasting, which moved two words from one sentence and appended them to at the end of a line in an earlier paragraph.

It was these two misplaced words that caught my eye when I was printing forms for a recent event, and which caused me to investigate more deeply and discover the other changes to the terms of the agreement.

Of course I reported the issue to Society officers, who indicated that the issue will be corrected later this month, when the SCA’s executive assistant returns from vacation.

I consider this incident an object lesson in the sad realities of boilerplate legal agreements — how many people must have signed these forms over the last year without reading closely enough to notice the problem? And of those few who might have noticed it, did none of them decide it was worth reporting to relevant officers?

I also think it’s an illustration of the benefits that the Society could gain by adopting a more open manner of governance — if the Society had publicly mentioned that they were updating the text of this agreement, it would have invited the kind of close scrutiny that would have ensured this error was caught and fixed within days, rather than more the eighteen months later. I think the value of this feedback is worth the extra time that would have been consumed by dealing with commentary from the populace following an announcement.

In this case, the error was likely minor enough that it does not invalidate the hundreds or thousands of agreements that have been signed during this period, but it’s equally possible that a slightly different error could have rendered them all legally worthless, or created a liability gap that put the SCA on the hook for substantial damages — so it’s the kind of thing that you would like to get right the first time, or fix sooner rather than later.

I’ll update this post when the roster form is corrected, or if there are other developments.

[Update, September 4:] The Society webmaster has corrected the problem and the new roster form has been posted to the website without the misplaced words.

Correspondence appended for the curious.

Date: September 1, 2023
From: Mathghamhain Ua Ruadháin
To: Society Help Desk
Cc: Society In-House Counsel


In December 2021, the liability waivers we use at events and practices were updated with the Society’s new mailing address — and at the same time, a few changes were quietly made to the text of the agreement. 

In addition to a substantive change — deleting the warning that “I understand that the SCA does NOT provide any insurance coverage for my person or my property.” — there were also some typographic changes, like removing a comma and removing the stray apostrophe in “IT’S MEANING.”

However while the changes were being made, an error was introduced in the roster form that caused important words that belong in a sentence near the end to be randomly appended to a different paragraph higher up on the page.

In particular, the words “representations made” that are currently floating next to the fifth paragraph actually belong after “oral promises or” in the seventh paragraph.

I’ll note that if the Society had publicly announced that it was changing the text of this venerable agreement, it might have invited the kind of scrutiny that would have allowed this error to be caught in a more timely fashion rather than persisting for more than a year and a half and being signed by hundreds of people.

The Society has a number of eagle-eyed members and I am sure volunteers would be willing to assist with proof-reading important documents to help mitigate such issues in the future.

— Mathghamhain Ua Ruadháin

Date: September 1, 2023
From: Society IT Manager
To: Mathghamhain Ua Ruadháin, Society Seneschal, Society Seneschal-Elect, Society President
Cc: Society In-House Counsel

I’m forwarding this on to the Society Seneschal and President as this isn’t a technical issue.

Date: September 1, 2023
From: Mathghamhain Ua Ruadháin
To: Society IT Manager
Cc: Society Seneschal, Society Seneschal-Elect, Society President, Society In-House Counsel

Ah, okay… for what it’s worth, the reason I thought that this might fall under your department is that I noticed the December 2021 PDFs were created by Marla/Jessa, but I understand that can be misleading — thanks for forwarding it to the relevant folks!

— Mathghamhain Ua Ruadháin

Date: September 2, 2023
From: Society President
To: Mathghamhain Ua Ruadháin, Society IT Manager
Cc: Society Seneschal, Society Seneschal-Elect, Society In-House Counsel, Society Executive Assistant

Mathghamhain and all,

The Executive Assistant to the Board keeps the main file set for all Board approved waiver changes.

She is on vacation until September 10 and will get with Marla who places files on the website when back to her office.

It is entirely possible that file conversions, moves, etc may be responsible for some of this but it will be corrected soon.

It is very important to know the dates of the PDF file creation and thank you Mathew, if it is okay to call you that, for finding that and these issues.



Date: September 4, 2023
From: Webmaster
To: Mathghamhain Ua Ruadháin

Thank you again for your close reading of our website. The unintentional changes introduced have been corrected and uploaded.

Date: September 4, 2023
From: Mathghamhain Ua Ruadháin
To: Webmaster

Cc: Society President, Society IT Manager, Society Seneschal, Society Seneschal-Elect, Society In-House Counsel, Society Executive Assistant

Thanks so much — I’m glad it was easy to get this ironed out!

For what it’s worth, I suspect that the reason nobody reported this problem over the last year and a half is that the current roster form uses such small type that it’s very difficult to read — and that’s especially true at events, when people might not be wearing their normal glasses, or in the evening light of a weeknight outdoor practice.

Increasing the font size from 8pt to maybe 11pt or so would greatly improve the readability and increase the chances that people actually understand the terms and can agree to them in a meaningful way.

Attached below is a sample layout showing that it’s possible to fit the new legal text and a dozen signatures on the page while setting the font at a readable size and incorporating some of the attractive formatting that’s seen on the classic one-at-a-time waiver form.

There’s obviously no pressure or urgency to this — I just thought I’d mention it while we were discussing the subject.

Thank you for your service,

— Mathghamhain Ua Ruadháin


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