I'm a member of the Florida Barbecue Association and Kansas City Barbecue Society and have competed in several competitions sanctioned by both organizations. In total, I'd estimate that I've competed in nearly 30 barbecue contests.
When registering for my last few bbq contests, I've noticed a thought provoking trend among contest organizers. Organizers have been including a "waiver of liability" form along with the other entry forms/registration information and the competitors are required to sign it and send it in with the entry fee.
The gist of these "waiver of liability" or "hold harmless" forms is an attempt to release the contest organizers of liability in the even that a competitor, judge, or spectator becomes ill after eating meat cooked at the event, or if spectators, judges, competitors, etc. become injured at the event as a result of the actions of the competitors.
I suspect many competitors sign these forms without even reading them. I must admit that the first few forms like this that I received, I signed without giving them a second thought, much less reading them word for word. These types of "release" forms bring to light an interesting problem for contest cooks.
The goal of many bbq contests is for the bbq contest and it's competitors to "draw" or "attract" spectators to the event. Often the event is in conjunction with a charity fund raising effort sponsored by a local civic organization and in some case the county or city municipal government.
As a non-lawyer and non-legal educated person, it appears that by agreeing to participate in these events and signing the various types of "release" forms, the competitors might be opening themselves up to the potential for liability issues if unfortunate circumstances, accidents, or possibily negligence by a cook or cook team member resulted in an injury or illness.
However, not being someone that likes to bring up the negative side of an issue without offering a solution, I would offer the following thoughts about what the bbq sanctioning bodies can do to help the cook teams, the organizers, the judges, and the spectators.
What about the possibility of the bbq sanctioning body (i.e. KCBS, FBA, MIM, etc.) negotiating a discounted "member" rate for liability insurance that the cook teams could purchase? Perhaps it's feasible that the liability policy would cover the competitors while competing in KCBS events throughout the year, and maybe even provide some benefit for those that also pursue other bbq interests such as catering, vending, instructional cooking seminars, etc.
Perhaps some readers of the bbq blog have experience with these types of insurance provisions whether for bbq contests or based on experience in other endeavors and would like to weigh in on these suggestions and/or add to the dialogue.
Comments/thoughts/e-mails are welcomed.