Guest Column - August 2009
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Understanding Liability Waivers

By Eric Eilerman & Dr. Peter Titlebaum



5 Important Tips Regarding Liability Waivers & Children
  • A liability waiver signed only by a minor is not a valid contract.
  • Most courts have ruled that a parent cannot sign away their child's right to sue for negligence.
  • Only six states have upheld a waiver signed by a minor and a parent.
  • Encourage parents to read and understand what the waiver says before they sign it. Provide a staff member who can explain key points.
  • Agreement to participate forms and permission slips do not grant liability protection to a facility.

  • For example, in a 1998 Arizona case, a 10-year-old girl was injured when attempting to move a horse at a local stable. Although her father had signed a liability waiver, the court ruled that the waiver was not clear and was not specific enough to protect the facility.

    Finally, know that parents are not obligated to sign the waiver. If they refuse to sign, you then have the option of limiting the child's ability to participate in an activity.

    Not all "waivers" are the same. There are several different types of forms besides or in addition to a liability waiver. One frequently used form is the "agreement to participate" form. Essentially, this form will warn the participant of the inherent risks of an activity and inform the person of the expected behavior. This form by itself will not prevent a facility from being liable, but when used in conjunction with a liability waiver, it can strengthen a facility's case in the event of a lawsuit.

    Another form used particularly with minors is the permission slip. This slip typically serves as an informational document and does not provide any liability protection. In order for a school or facility to have liability protection, they would need to include a liability waiver along with the permission slip.

    When it comes to liability waivers, it is extremely important to encourage parents to do more than just sign the form. By being informed of what the waiver says, they will know what options they have in the unfortunate event that a negligent act causes injury. And, by encouraging parents to know what the liability waiver means, you are demonstrating that you care about safety at your facility.

    Facility owners would be well advised to consult with a lawyer well-versed in this area to ensure their liability waivers are as effective as possible.



    ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Eric Eilerman is student at the Villanova University. His past experiences include interning with the Dayton Dragons professional baseball team and University of Dayton Sports Information Department.

    Dr. Peter Titlebaum is associate professor of Sport Management at the University of Dayton in Dayton, Ohio. He has over 20 years' experience in management in the profit, nonprofit, private and public sectors.