Parental Waiver of Rights

There are two bills floating around the Florida legislature right now that have the potential to limit and restrict the rights of children who get injured at theme parks, go cart tracks or other amusement parks in our state.

One bill “grants” parents the right to waive and release in advance “any claim or cause of action” that would accrue to any of their minor children. The bill states that these waivers and releases are disfavored and must be strictly construed against the party claiming to be relieved from liability. The bill proposes that these waivers and releases are only enforceable to the extent that the intention to be relieved of liability was made clear and understandable so that an ordinary knowledgeable person would know what he or she would be contracting away. However, nothing in the bill shall construe to allow the waiver and release for illegal acts.

This bill means that every time a parent signs one of these waivers for a go-cart ride, a tourist attraction, or any other “fun” activity, the right to bring a claim or cause of action on behalf of the child for injury resulting from negligence may have already been contracted away.And, as long as the incident that caused injury was covered in the release, the Courts will likely uphold the release and bar the claim. Many parents usually don’t think of what they are signing away when they sign one of these documents. These papers are often overlooked when parents are merely signing so their child can go on a ride. However, the result can be a complete elimination of the child’s legal rights. God forbid that negligence of the party who drafted the release causes serious injury to the child; the child will have no recourse.

The other bill seeks to broaden the scope of the definition of a non-spectator under Florida Statute 549.09 to include children whose parents have signed a release on their behalf. This statute allows the operator of a closed-course motorsport facility to require as a condition of admission the signing of a liability release form. This statute defines a “non-spectator” as event participants who have signed a motorsport liability release.   This proposed bill (while it could be argued broadens the rights of parents to decide how to parent their child) limits the right of the child who does not even know the rights are being contracted away.

The next time you are faced with a pre-injury waiver or release, or any paper that you are about to sign, please make sure you study it carefully to make sure you are not contracting away your legal rights and remedies or the rights and remedies of your child.

Below are links to the proposed bills:

http://www.myfloridahouse.gov/Sections/Bills/billsdetail.aspx?BillId=40275&SessionId=61

http://www.myfloridahouse.gov/Sections/Bills/billsdetail.aspx?BillId=40472&SessionId=61



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