By Doyice Cotten
This is the seventh of an eight-part series on the enforceability of liability waivers of negligence when the sport or recreation participant is a minor.
Last week, three states were discussed in which the enforcement of parental waivers is very likely. Three more states are discussed in this post. Parental waivers are likely to be enforced in each.
A 2012 state appellate court (Wabash County Young Men’s Christian Association v. Thompson) addressed the enforceability of a parental waiver signed in order for a daughter to play softball. The court held that a state statute requiring court approval for post-injury settlements did not apply to pre-injury liability waivers and ruled that pre-injury waivers are enforceable; ironically, the WCYMCA waiver was not enforced because the waiver did not specifically specify that it protected against negligence of the provider.
In another case (Sauter v. Perfect North Slopes, 2014), a U.S. District Court in Indiana did not enforce a parental waiver because of ambiguity; discussion indicated that the waiver would have been enforced had the waiver been unambiguous.
Parental waivers contested in two Delaware superior courts were upheld (Hong v. Hockessian Athletic Club, 2012; Lynam v. Blue Diamond LLC, 2016). Both waivers protected against negligence. In Lynam, recklessness was also alleged; the waiver did not protect against that. Both courts are trial courts; Delaware has no appellate court other than the Supreme Court. Both of these cases dealt with commercial entities so courts would most likely rule similarly for non-profit entities.
The Supreme Court of Massachusetts enforced a parental waiver for a non-profit entity in 1992 (Sharon v. City of Newton). The court stated that state law presumes that fit parents act in furtherance of the welfare and best interest of their children. Since that time, other courts in the state have enforced parental waivers for commercial entities.
The final post of the series next week will present a summary as well as a listing of states in which parental waivers are least likely to be enforced and states in which they are most likely to be enforced.
Photo Credit: Thanks to Verse Photography in Flickr.