The Vomit Clause (maybe Texas ain’t so bad-ass after all)

I’m sorry for the rather disgusting title of this blog, but I believe in full disclosure so readers can decide whether to forge ahead or divert to a more pleasant website elsewhere. Your call.

As I’ve gotten older and had to travel more, I’ve become a bit of a travel prima donna. I don’t do coach flights over about 90 minutes. I need to be upgraded to a suite in hotels. And, for God’s sake, I don’t take taxis. I need a car service. Fortunately, in many US cities, Uber has made the latter requirement much easier and more affordable. However, in some cities, Uber is not yet entrenched and, where that’s the case, I need a car service. Austin, TX is just such a city.

I was in Austin a few months ago and found a perfectly wonderful one-man-show car service called Austin Awaits. My driver picked me up in a 4-door pick up truck. Very Texas. I loved it so much that when I returned to Austin last week I had my assistant call this guy and book him again. He had professionalized his business a bit since my prior ride and required that I enter into a contract with him, documenting the service he would provide and the price I would pay. The picture below is a screen shot of the contract. Of particular note is the $250 charge per vomit incident.

 

With scary legal language like this, of course I had to get attorneys involved. The first and most important question is the legal definition of a “vomit incident.” Even in the funky all caps font he used in the contract, you can see that vomit incident is not capitalized and, hence, is not what the lawyers call a “defined term” in the legal document. With “vomit incident” now open for legal interpretation, I felt like my financial exposure could be much higher than the $250 in the contract. After all there are, as the contract notes, no exceptions.  For example, a single vomit incident could be construed as multiple wretches in a single ride or, I suppose, as a single wretch. Thus, if one were to wretch 5 times in one ride, while I would consider that a single “vomit incident” the legal language leaves open the possibility that it was 5 vomit incidents. The added legal language that the $250 charge is on a “per occurrence” basis provides no further clarity. I think their contract would have been more clear had it used language like “no exceptions and is on a per wretch basis.” But, it did not and therein lies the legal ambiguity. In just my simple example above, my financial liability goes from $250 to $1,250, depending on interpretation. A very steep price for yacking in the back of a limo.

The lawyers are still hammering out a deal here and I’m not sure where we’ll end up. It’s complex and the legal bills are mounting. But, here’s my big take away from this experience. Texas ain’t nearly as bad-ass as they think they are. Here on the east coast, we can go out boozing, even at my age, and rent a limo without having to sign off on complex vomit clauses. I guess the Texans just can’t hold their booze.

I’ll let you know what the lawyers work out.

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About brucecrobertson

Bruce Robertson lives in Maryland with his wife, 2 children and annoying dog. He is a venture capitalist and avid sports fan and golfer
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