Florida Court Rules - Sports Waivers For Kids Are Essentially Worthless
Eddie FarahDecember 13, 2008 12:04 AM
A ruling by the state's high court this week has far reaching implications for anyone who is forced to sign a waiver before their child can participate in a sport.
Essentially, the ruling means the waivers are worth only the paper they are written on.
The Florida Supreme Court ruled Thursday that a parent cannot waive the liability for their children when they sign a release form before the minor participates in a sport. The 4-1 ruling clears the way for litigation against a motor sports track in Okeechobee County.
The issue began with the death of 14-year old Christopher Jones on May 10, 2003 at the Thunder Cross Motor Sports Park. Christopher took a jump and the ATV landed on top of him.
Before he could race, the park required Bobby Jones, the father, to sign a Waiver of Liability. One had been signed the day of the accident. The release included specific language that waived any claims based on the negligence of the track. It also says that the parents realized the dangerous nature of the activity and the risk of injury or death.
Christopher’s mother, Bette, later filed a wrongful death lawsuit claiming the park owners and manager were negligent. The suit was dismissed though because her ex-husband had signed the release form. But the Fourth District Court of Appeal said there was nothing in state law that allowed a parent to waive all legal rights on behalf of their minor child.
Since that decision conflicted with a previous ruling that upheld the waivers, the issue went before the state Supreme Court to work out the differences.
So now, five years after his death, Bette Jones can pursue her lawsuit against the track in Okeechobee County. Bette says she wants other parents to be aware of the dangers of ATVs and that’s why she’s stuck with it so long.
The decision is an important one and has many different applications since participation in sports often requires waivers. A parent may be able to waive their own rights – but not that of their minor child. #