As a parent of a young child, I am often in a situation that calls for signing waivers on behalf of my child and his right to sue for personal injury. Most skate parks, sports clubs, and other outdoor parks require parents or guardians to sign a pre-injury waiver or release prior to allowing a child to participate or enter a park. Additionally, pre injury releases can be valid if all aspects of the law are followed.
Releases are agreements that contractually bind one party to another by allowing one party to agree to assume liability and relieving the other party of that liability. The release is a contractual bar to any claim released in the document. These releases must follow very specific legal standards and are subject to harsh scrutiny but will hold up when they are found to be valid.
However, if you are the parent of a child who was just injured and you signed a waiver, I’m sure you are thinking “what did I do and can I undo it”. Neither the legislature nor the courts have given us a bright line answer to the question of whether these pre-injury release agreements are binding to children’s rights or not. The consensus seems to be that the courts interpret these types of pre- injury releases as being against public policy in regards to children. The court, in Munoz v II Jaz Inc., stated that the parents lacked authority to sign a pre-injury waiver that affected the child’s rights, based on public policy grounds. For instance, one court has stated that “to allow a parent to release a child’s possible future claims for injury caused by negligence may as a practical matter leave the minor in an unacceptably precarious position with no recourse, no parental support and no method to support himself (sic) or care for his injury.”
The courts seem to indicate that the state has a long standing policy to protect minor children and therefore, parents cannot waive the rights of a minor child to sue for personal injuries.