I think most parents will agree that we are constantly worried that our children might get injured. We want them to engage in physical activity and try new things, but at the same time we are concerned for their safety. This is particularly true when we rely on others to supervise our kids’ recreational activities.
We are probably all familiar with the standard “permission slip,” which supposedly waives legal recourse if a child is injured in the course of an activity. However, a recent Michigan Supreme Court decision essentially invalidates these pre-injury waivers. The Court, striking a blow for children and safety advocates in the State of Michigan, held that parents do not have the legal authority to bind their child to a contractual waiver.
The case involved a 5-year-old boy who broke his leg while jumping off an inflatable slide at an indoor play area. The child’s father had signed a liability waiver prior to the injury, and the operator of the play area argued that the waiver prevented the family from pursuing a lawsuit. The Court disagreed and, invoking 133 years of precedent, ruled in favor of the injured child.
Pre-injury liability waivers have long been a “get out of jail free” card for corporations and insurance companies. With this decision, negligent operators can now be held accountable for preventable injuries.