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Children, Recreational Facilities And Liability Waivers; What You Need To Know

Anyone with young children understands this scenario; your child is invited to a birthday party at a trampoline park or a bounce place. You arrive to hundreds of screaming kids running around having the times of their lives. Your child is dying to get involved in the action. But, before he or she is allowed to enter, a liability waiver is thrust into your face for signature. What do you do? You certainly don’t have time to read the fine print to see if the waiver is acceptable. Nor do you have time to inspect the facility to see if it’s being run properly. Furthermore, your child is not about to let you leave the place without having the meltdown of the century. Not to mention, the parents of the birthday boy/girl will never invite your child to another function again.

So, like the large majority of parents, you succumb to the pressure and sign the waiver allowing your child to enter. But what if your child is injured? What if the injury is a result of a dangerous condition or lack of proper supervision at the facility? What can you do? Can you still recover damages on your child’s behalf?

Liability waivers at children’s recreational facilities seem to be on the rise, but are you signing your child’s legal rights away when you sign one of these waivers? Generally speaking, liability waivers are frowned upon in New York State. However, if drafted properly they are enforceable if the person waiving his/her rights is an adult.

But, when the person whose rights are being waived is a minor the case law is different. A parent cannot sign away their child’s legal rights in New York State. So, should your child suffer an injury due to the negligence of the facility, you can still make a claim on your child’s behalf.

You may be wondering, what is the rationale for a facility to require a liability waiver be signed if it is unenforceable? The answer is; there are several reasons. First, signing such a waiver may cause people to assume that they are barred from making a claim. Second, the law can always change in the future. Third, while the document may not be enforceable as a complete bar to a lawsuit, there may be language in the waiver that can be used to show that the parent was made aware of certain dangers and therefore is also negligent in supervising their own child.

Ultimately, it is best not to sign a liability waiver. I would advise my client’s against signing such a document. But if you have already executed one on behalf of your minor child and he/she was injured, you should consult with an attorney. Your child still has the right to pursue a claim for negligence against the facility.