Signing Waiver of Liability Agreements at Your Child’s Summer Activities


With the whisk of a pen, you have probably signed dozens of waiver of liability forms on your child’s behalf. Only by signing the legalese-filled document is your child allowed to participate in any given camp activity, amusement park trip, sports program, or community or church event. But what does it all mean? Did you just sign away all your child’s rights?

The waiver of liability protects an operator from liability if your child is injured while engaging in the particular activity covered. The forms are designed to inform the participant — or the participant’s parent or legal guardian — of the risks involved in the particular activity. Presumably, the participant reads and understands the legal document and makes a decision to assume the risks of the behavior.

Most releases contain clauses that cover these elements:

  • Release from liability
  • Waiver of right to sue
  • Express assumption of risk
  • Hold harmless agreement
  • Indemnification
  • Medical consent

In essence, the waiver of liability form is a contract. As such, it is subject to basic contract concepts in addition to specific release laws, including:

  • The language should be clear and understandable.
  • Tactics intended to misrepresent the risks or waiver of rights may not be enforceable.
  • An unconscionable agreement may not be enforceable.
  • You have the right to alter the agreement, but the operator has the right to reject your counter offer.
  • California law requires releases to be printed in an easy-to-read font and size — with 12-point recommended.
  • Releases should not only be included as part of a larger document, but instead should be presented as a stand-alone document.
  • You must sign the release as your child’s legal guardian, because your minor-aged child is not permitted to enter a contract.
  • An electronic release may be enforceable if the organization followed procedures that prompted your acknowledgments.

City of Santa Barbara v. Superior Court differentiated between ordinary negligence and gross negligence. In the pivotal case, the city argued that the parents of a girl who drowned at a summer camp for developmental disabilities was not allowed to sue for wrongful death because the mother signed a release form. However, the court ruled that the parents could sue on the basis of gross negligence.


Topics:  Minors, Waiver of Liability

Published In: Personal Injury Updates

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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