The situation is common. Your child wants to play soccer or participate in an extra-curricular activity but as a condition of participation you are asked to sign a waiver releasing every participant, sponsor, coach, assistant, and every other conceivable person or entity from liability. What should you consider before signing such a release?
First of all, a waiver cannot release responsibility for “gross negligence” which is defined as an extreme departure from the ordinary standard of conduct or “want of even scant care”. Even if the waiver claims to do this, it will not be enforced if gross negligence is found.
Secondly, a written release will extinguish liability for ordinary negligence unless it has been obtained by fraud, deception, misrepresentation, duress, or undue influence. An example of this would be where a representation is made regarding the nature of supervision, the skills and qualifications of the coaches that fails to disclose all material facts.
Third, a release can be voided if it is in “violation of public policy”. This means that ordinary negligence cannot be signed away if the service provided implicates the public interest. Courts in California have consistently held however that recreational activities do not involve the public interest. Most importantly, for a release to be enforceable the injury must arise from the activity, it must be clear, explicit, and understandable in each detail and as a whole must notify you of the effect of signing the agreement.
Before signing the release, be sure to read it thoroughly and ask all questions that you have. Do research into the particular activity to make sure it is well staffed with qualified individuals. Be sure that you understand what the activity involves and what the risks are. Make sure that appropriate safety equipment is used and that safety guidelines are followed. In short, make sure that you have all the information you need before signing away your child’s rights.
Our attorneys at the Brandi Law Firm have extensive experience handling personal injury cases. Contact us for a free consultation if you believe you or a loved one has been injured.