NC Aviation Law Attorney

Release Forms (Waivers) Unenforceable Says Iowa Court

Iowa Supreme Court has ruled a 19-year-old who was injured on a field trip in 2005 can proceed with her negligence lawsuit because the release forms signed by her mother are unenforceable.

The then 14-year-old was on a field trip to Milwaukee with a youth program called Upward Bound and organized by the University of Northern Iowa and the state of Iowa.  The students had to cross a busy street in the middle of a rainstorm without order or supervision and as the young girl got off the bus, she was hit by a car. 

In overturning a lower court’s decision, the court stated, “We believe a strong policy in favor of protecting children must trump any competing interest” to nullify a child’s personal injury claim.  The lawyer for the young girl argued “a parent can’t waive the potential negligence of a person or party” to whom they are releasing custody of their children and the person who is negligent in caring for the children can’t stand behind a waiver which signs the children’s rights away. 

The state argued ruling the liability waivers unenforceable could impact opportunities for children to participate in field trips and that public policy weighs in favor of releases.  The court acknowledged there is valid policy supporting waivers for adults, but believed strong public policy favoring protecting vulnerable children needs a different rule. 

When her first attempt at filing a lawsuit was turned down by the lower court because of the waiver, she argued to the higher court that parents are “ill-equipped” to know in advance all the risks of injury their children may face when the releases are signed. 

The high court agreed.

Waivers Unenforceable

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Posted by 4:48 pm

N.C. Personal Injury Attorney Warns Parents About Waivers For Children’s Activities


   If you are a parent of small children, you have seen them.  The devices by which businesses and organizations seek to avoid responsibility for their carelessness, defective products, or lax supervision.  I am speaking of releases, waivers and their dastardly cousin, hold harmless agreements.  Our clients have been asked to sign these for church camps, birthday parties, basketball camps, and even when one of our children took Chinese lessons!

     Our experience is that anytime our children attend a paid event at a company that invites children in—for profit—parents are asked to sign one of these things.  They even come on pre-printed invitations that the company supplies to unsuspecting parents.  They also are presented when children attend a religious affiliated camp.

       If you sign a release or waiver, and if your child is injured, you might well be giving up your rights to recover for injuries to your child from the party responsible for those injuries.  In my view, the entity that caused the harm, and its insurance company, should be responsible.     

     Think of them in the alternative:  “I hereby give you the right to maim, injury and even kill my child and allow you to (1) not  keep your equipment in repair (2) not certify your instructors (3) not have adequate emergency equipment on hand, (4) permit a drunk employees to drive a bus, etc., and (5) to allow your insurance company to receive the premiums which we are paying without the risk of having to pay a claim.”  That’s a great deal for the insurance company.

     If you are asked to sign a “hold harmless” agreement, you could be agreeing to pay for that entity’s lawyers and any damages awarded by a court—if someone sues that company for the acts of your child—or for anything else.

     We advise clients not to give up their children’s rights. Why should you give up your money so that the business can pay insurance premiums and then be mandated by that same insurer to get these releases/waivers signed so, potentially, it won’t have to pay a claim?  Why agree to pay their legal bills when you’re not responsible?

      Think of the releases this way:  if a parent  handed you one of these releases to sign when you brought your child over for a play date—allowing the host family not monitor the children, leave out knives or dangerous tools or unlocked loaded guns, leave chemicals unsecured, flammable materials within reach, would you leave your child there?  Of course not.     

       Insurance companies might pay on the smaller injuries, but they are holding the release for a larger injury.   The release is held back for a truly severe injury—the one where a family really needs help.

       These releases prey on the unknowing public, with greater risk to the less fortunate.  Some may have the resources to challenge these releases, but the resource-less will be pushed away when the signed release is shoved in their face.

       Our advice is first of all not to sign these documents.  If you sign and are confronted with one after an injury to your child, consult a lawyer in your state to learn what can be done.  Laws vary from state to state.

        But it’s better not to risk it.  Just say no, and don’t sign them.  Don’t patronize businesses that make you sign them.  Don’t send your children to parties, functions or camps—religious or otherwise—if you are asked to sign one of these as a condition of use or attendance. Boycott businesses and camps that use them.  Explain to whoever presents the release why you are declining.   They will stop if we stop.

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Posted by 3:17 pm

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