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Meeting with attorney about WS liability and organizational issues

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WS Member Warmshowers Administrator's picture
Meeting with attorney about WS liability and organizational issues

Per our earlier discussions this year, I met with attorney Randall Pearce today about our need to be a bit better legally informed.

  • The nonprofit nature of Warmshowers.org gives us extra protection (the Colorado Good Samaritan law See writeup on voluteers protects volunteers and directors See writeup on directors of such a nonprofit in the course of their work)
  • We do need to have liability insurance, in his opinion, mostly because it would pay for a legal defense, which of course we could otherwise not mount.
  • Our biggest liablity exposure if if we could do something in response to a problem report and failed to take appropriate action
  • Now that we have private messaging, it actually might be possible to notify prospective guests about a serious problem member. And we probably have the responsibility to do this.
WS Member WS Member's picture
I guess the next step would

I guess the next step would be to figure out how much liability insurance costs, and where to get it.

WS Member @wsadmin@'s picture
I found a mountain biking

I found a mountain biking buddy who is an insurance agent and he's working through it for us. I filled out the forms tonight. That doesn't mean we'll have success getting it or that we can afford it.

All the previous calls I've made on getting insurance have gone unanswered. But at least this guy is on our side and will help us figure out the name of the insurance we need (commercial general liability I believe).

WS Member WS Member's picture
Liability

Seems like we are progressing well Randy.

Just a thought: Given the WS is a global site with many members traveling/ hosting overseas, and in some non western cultures. It may be a good idea to have a statement of ADVICE around possible cultural variances in different countries. Something like 'be aware that cultural norms may be significantly different from your home country, and you should take every reasonable step to ensure your personal safety and security in cultures which have markedly different values systems from what you may be used too. You should inform yourself of any sensitivities from your local or national consulate on cultural norms and security issues in any country you travel in.'

This at least front foots any possible challenge which may occur.

WS Member WS Member's picture
Great progress on this issue!

Great progress on this issue!

Liability insurance . . . let me see what the Alliance for Walking & Biking has to say. I believe it IS recommended for Board members but I don't think it's all that expensive. I'll get back to you soonest on this.

Private messaging is a good thing.

Russel makes a very good point. As we've discussed before, the more we can do to let everyone know that THEY are responsible for their own lives and well-being, the better. Making pointed statements in that regard is a good thing. We could add links to things like the CIA World Factbook (though the "CIA" part might be counterproductive):

https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/al.html

There may be other, less freighted, factbooks out there. This just happened to be the one that first came to mind.

WS Member WS Member's picture
attornies, non profits and liability insurance..

this will be interesting to see unfold... I am new to the site and not an attorney... but with legal business experience..
My not knowing the assets of the non-profit makes it impossible to have a valid opinion re liability insuance... if the assets are less than $100k - I'd say, "exactly what is insurance protecting against?" - if the nonprofit got sued - it could close and then an alternative group could emerge...
As a leadership / board member - I'd be much much much more concerned about errors and ommissions insurance protection for the Board/Leadership... even if HQ is in CO, and there is a good samaritan law - check to see the value of it.
It is NOT fun to have donated time and energy on a Board and then be personally sued for actions while involved just because some opposing council wants to "cover their bases and cast a wide net".
What exactly happens that could be a lawsuit - let's take the worst, a murder occurs, a rape occurs, a theft occurs...
Any blog or dating service faces the same issues... they dont warrant or vet participants nor does this site... i just dont see the liability issues, other than of the Board/Leadership as mentioned above.
Suing a non-profit with limited assets (less than $200k) is not something that would be productive to any accusor. Suing a well insured non profit with a $1M or $5M insurance cap is very tempting and often rewarding.
I wish I had more valuable thoughts to share other than: be careful as attornies are NOT business people and are very very very very very often capable of advice that doesnt fit the issue at hand. Back to planning a ride! 70F in Fl w Sunny skies here.

WS Member @wsadmin@'s picture
Thanks for your thoughts,

Thanks for your thoughts, Keith.

Yes, protection for the volunteers and leadership is all we care about. The nonprofit has essentially no assets - just some operating cash. We have about $1500 now as the end of the year approaches; we normally get an influx in January that pays for the year's hosting.

Colorado does have a Good Samaritan law, and we're making sure we understand it.

I think the attorney I chatted with is not one of those "protect everything in every way" type of people. He just suggested that we take care to get liability insurance that would cover board members and other volunteers.

Now if an insurance agent could help us understand and obtain what we need! (And if it could not cost half our operating budget.)