Parental Waivers – Waivers Signed by Parents on Behalf of a Minor! Are they Enforceable in Your State?

By Doyice Cotten

At one point, maybe 25 years or so ago, it was not unusual to hear or read ——-, “Waivers are not worth the paper they are printed on!” That time has come and gone; now virtually every professional in sport, recreation, and fitness recognizes that in most states, waivers can provide valuable protection against significant financial loss as a result of injury lawsuits.

In fact, courts in about 45 states enforce well-drafted liability waivers that are voluntarily signed by adult participants in sport, recreation, and fitness activities. A key caveat, however, is the word “adult.” Waivers for sport, recreation, and fitness activities signed only by a minor are not enforceable in any state! In fact, in many states, if not most states, waivers intended to protect providers against liability for injury to minor clients are not enforceableeven if a parent signs on behalf of the minor (commonly referred to as Parental Waivers).

States in Which Parental Waivers are Enforced

 Courts in twelve states currently enforce parental waivers. These states include:

Alaska                   California               Colorado

Delaware                Florida                   Indiana

Massachusetts      Maryland               Minnesota

North Carolina    North Dakota           Ohio

In addition, parental waivers are enforced in the Virgin Islands and in Admiralty cases.  Courts in Connecticut and Wisconsin have enforced parental waivers in the past; however, subsequent state supreme court rulings make the enforcement of parental waivers very unlikely today.

It should be mentioned that in many of these states, the waivers are enforced regardless of whether the entity relying on the waiver is a commercial business or a non-profit entity such as a school or community recreation department. A few of these states, however, enforce parental waivers only for non-profits.

Many states also have statutes that allow parental waivers for a specific recreational activity (e.g., equine activities, motorsports, skiing).  The statutes differ considerably; in fact, some apply only to the inherent risks of the activity.

Equine Activities Motorsports Skiing







What about the Other States?

 Courts in about 25 states do not enforce parental waivers. Previous court rulings in these states have ruled that such waivers are unenforceable – usually because they violate the public policy of that state. The Florida Supreme Court has ruled that parental waivers are unenforceable for commercial for-profit businesses. That court has not ruled on parental waivers used by non-profit organizations.

The law in about 15 states is not clear. In some states, there have been no cases examining the issue; in other states, rulings have not really been definitive enough to clarify the laws in those states. Most state law comes from case law; few states have no specific statue regarding the issue. Three exceptions are Alaska, Colorado, and Minnesota – each of which have statutes stating that under certain circumstances, parental waivers are enforceable.


You Need to Know More About Waiver Law in Your State

Get the latest edition of

Waivers & Releases of Liability (10th ed.)

by Doyice and Mary Cotten.


  • A Chapter (about 120 pages) on Waiver Law in Each State
  • A Chapter on Parental Waiver Law in Each State
  • Two Chapters on Writing Waivers
  • A Chapter explaining the Limitations of Waivers
  • & Much More

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