By Doyice Cotten
This is the sixth of an eight-part series on the enforceability of liability waivers of negligence when the sport or recreation participant is a minor.
Three states will be discussed in this post. Courts in each state enforce parental waivers utilized by both commercial and non-profit entities. In the seventh post next week, three more states will be addressed. Parental waivers are likely to be enforced in each.
California was the first state in which the courts enforced a parental waiver. The landmark case was Hohe v. San Diego School District (1990). Since that time, California courts have enforced parental waivers numerous times – far more than any other state. They make no distinction between commercial and non-profit entities.
Ohio was the first state in which the state Supreme Court issued a strong ruling examining the issues in detail (Zivich v. Mentor Soccer Club, 1998). This influential case has been cited in many jurisdictions. The court endorsed the right of a parent to raise his or child and held that parents have the authority to bind their minor children to agreements with sponsors of non-profit activities. This has since been expanded to apply to commercial entities as well.
The Court of Appeals of Maryland (Maryland’s highest court) has stated that the General Assembly has passed statutes that empower parents to exercise authority on behalf of their minor children on the most important aspects of the child’s life – education, medical treatment, immunizations, and religion. The court then deferred to a parent’s determination that the potential risks of a recreational activity are outweighed by the possible benefit to the child and did not involve the public interest. For those and other reasons, the court enforced the parental waiver used by the commercial entity in BJ’s Wholesale Club, Inc. v. Rosen (2013).
Since the court endorses the enforcement of a waiver protecting a commercial entity, it seems reasonable to expect that they would also enforce a parental waiver for a non-profit entity.
The seventh post in the series in January will present three states in which courts have ruled that parental waivers utilized by either commercial entities or both non-profit and commercial entities are enforceable.
Photo Credit: Thanks to Verse Photography in Flickr.