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Florida Supreme Court Rejects Parental Pre-Accident Waivers of Childrens Rights

Our Jacksonville law firm recently handled a case where a teenage girl was seriously injured at camp. At enrollment, her mother signed a form that provided that the camp would not be responsible for any injuries, no matter how negligent it might be in causing the injuries. While we were able to convince the Judge in that case that the agreement was unenforceable because it was poorly worded (it only said that it waived the parents’ claims, not the child’s claims), for many years these agreements were enforceable in Florida. 609113_hand_with_clipboard.jpg

Parents often find themselves asked to sign a release of any personal injury claims before their children participate in potentially hazardous activities like go-cart or motocross racing, horseback riding, or scuba diving. Typically, the releases are little more than preprinted forms presented to the parents without any discussion of the actual risks and dangers their children may face.

However, last week the Florida Supreme Court ruled that parents cannot waive liability on behalf of their children by signing such releases. The ruling was issued in a Florida accidental wrongful death case arising from the death of a 14-year-old boy who died after attempting a jump on an all-terrain vehicle (ATV). Originally, the trial court dismissed the lawsuit because the boy’s father signed a pre-accident waiver. The Supreme Court’s decision will now let that suit proceed and will send a powerful message to businesses to take care when catering to children.

If you would like to confer with an attorney familiar with injuries to children, please feel free to contact our Jacksonville attorneys for a free consultation.