Ironman Ireland Deaths: Ironman Waiver Excludes Liability for death from negligence

Ironman Ireland Deaths: Ironman Waiver Excludes Liability for Death from Negligence


Two athletes recently died in the swim portion of an Ironman 70.3 race in Ireland.

Numerous competitors that day have since said that the race shouldn’t have gone ahead, and some commentators have pointed out that athletes weren’t forced into the water. I would caution readers by saying that that one of those who died was a highly experienced long-course athlete, probably more experienced than you or I having completed 5 Ironman races and 8 Half Ironman races (70.3).

This article talks about the Ironman Waiver and how it excludes liabilities even if as a result of death.

2 triathletes die – Ironman Ireland 70.3

On the face of it, the waiver you sign before you are allowed to compete in an Ironman event signs away pretty much any right you have.

I am not a lawyer but here goes on my take on why it can’t do that…

Ironman waivers highlight “high altitude or mountainous terrain, severe storms or bad weather such as lightning, strong winds, rain, hail, snow, and ice, fast moving or deep lakes, oceans or other water bodies…”

That seems to cover the conditions that were present at Ironman Ireland, right?

The waiver goes on to say that you sign away your rights against all “persons or entities associated or involved with the activities” in regard to “any injury, damage, death, lost property, stolen property, disposed property or other loss in any way connected with the risks or my enrolment or participation in the event.”

and also includes “claims resulting from the ordinary negligence of released parties, whether passive or active.

Ironman Group in DEEP trouble as Triathlon Ireland denies sanctioning Ironman Ireland event where 2 died

English Law

English Law is a good place to start as many laws in other jurisdictions are based on the principle of English Law. Obviously, English Law will have no direct bearing on an Irish court case.

In England, The Unfair Contract Terms Act 1977 (UCTA) says the following

  • Section 2(1): A person cannot by reference to any contract term or to a notice given to persons generally or to particular persons exclude or restrict his liability for death or personal injury resulting from negligence.

So if you’re competing at Ironman Bolton (UK) you’re probably good to go. Let’s turn to Cork.

Irish Law

In Ireland, we probably need to look at The Sale of Goods and Supply of Services Act 1980. Section 15(2) of the Sale of Goods and Supply of Services Act 1980 states:

(2) Without prejudice to the generality of subsection (1) of this section, in the case of a contract for the supply of a service where the supplier is acting in the course of a business, the above-mentioned term or notice is void as against the other party to the contract (whether that party is a consumer or not) if it purports to exclude or restrict the liability of the supplier for death or personal injury resulting from an act or omission of the supplier or any servant or agent of his or any person for whose act or omission the supplier is vicariously liable.

I think there are also further tests that must be passed for Ironman’s contract to be valid including a REASONABLENESS test and PUBLIC POLICY must also be considered.

So What

Apart from reputational damage we then come to remedies.

My understanding of English Law here is that the application of legal remedies is quite different to those in the USA where juries can award punitive damages. Remedies (basically damages, money) are based in part on a tariff for injury/death (it’s actually the non-binding Judicial College Guidelines). So there is a fixed value range to losing your arm, a finger but not for loss of life. However, what can be awarded is loss of earnings or loss of other income as well as costs that were incurred like funeral and repatriation costs. So in the case of the Ironman Ireland Race,  I believe one of those who died was a sales director in his 40s. The death means his family can’t benefit from his high future earnings and that must be compensated. There are probably other financial amounts that can be added to the eventual settlement including for ‘distress and upset’.

It could be the case that there are punitive damages in Ireland (I don’t think so) and it could also be the case, separately, that there are Health & safety fines levied on Ironman.

It could be the case that families of the victims could instead pursue a case in the USA or Canada depending on the legal structure of the Ironman Group.

Ironman Group is owned by Advance Publications, Inc. and is headquartered in Staten Island, New York. Given its location and origin, Advance Publications is most likely legally registered in the state of New York.


Again, I’m not a lawyer and Google is a dangerous thing.

It seems that Ironman hasn’t got a leg to stand on if they try to exclude responsibility for death.

However, the financial impact on such a large organisation may be minimal if covered by insurance and even if not covered by insurance probably won’t bankrupt the company.

It’s the long-term reputational damage that’s likely to be the problem for Ironman and court cases can drag on for a long time.

Ironman Blames Triathlon Ireland & Cork Council Blames Ironman

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1 thought on “Ironman Ireland Deaths: Ironman Waiver Excludes Liability for death from negligence

  1. I think that’s right. In the US and I think all legal systems derived from English Common Law, you cannot disclaim responsibility for malice or negligence by contract.

    But that does not mean that Ironman have no defenses or that people do not have personal responsibility for their actions to enter an inherently dangerous event.

    People do also die in Marathons quite regularly or even 5k races.

    But at the very least the PR is — um — not great.

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