August 26, 2007
Florida Court May Consider Waivers
An intermediate appellate court in Florida recently issued what lawyers involved describe as a confusing opinion, according to The Palm Beach Post:
Christopher Jones died in May 2003 after losing control of his ATV at the Thunder Cross Motor Sports Park. His father, Bobby, had signed a waiver acknowledging the risks at the park and giving up his and Christopher's rights to sue - a common practice before children enter parks or participate in sports events.
The 4th District Court of Appeal ruled this month that Bobby Jones could not sign away his son's right to sue, clearing the way for a lawsuit against the park on behalf of the boy's estate.
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In their decision, the appellate judges said it is still up to parents to decide which activities their children can participate in, but they can't waive a child's right to make a claim in cases of injury without court approval.
That would mean the only way the "hold-harmless" agreements would be enforceable against a child would be if the court appointed an independent guardian for the child in each case, and the guardian signed off on the document before the child was allowed into the park.
The story also suggests that, regardless of what the Supreme Court does (there's a split in Florida, so their involvement seems likely), legislative action is probable as well.
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