As any parent, teacher, school administrator, or child-focused activity center owner knows, field trips and recreational events are a common excursion for children of all ages. An opportunity to get out of the classroom and experience learning at different venues or events, or to celebrate a birthday or other occasion. A key legal aspect to these activities is the liability waiver and release. These releases ask the parent to waive all right to sue if their child is injured – in effect, assuming the risk for their child’s injury.
The Michigan Supreme Court recently heard oral arguments in a case that, if upheld, may threaten the future of such fun-filled activities. In Woodman v Kera, LLC, a mother rented an indoor play arena for her son’s birthday – he was 5 years old. On the day of the party, the child’s father signed a release on his son’s behalf. The boy broke his leg jumping off the top of a bouncy slide. His mother, in turn, sued the facility owners. The trial court dismissed the case based on the release. The Court of Appeals, however, overturned the trial court, relying on the common law (court law) rule that a parent has no authority to release his or her child’s rights.
Will the business owner be held liable despite the release? Only time will tell, as it may still be a little while before the Michigan Supreme Court releases it’s opinion (which should be available at http://coa.courts.mi.gov/resources/opinions.htm, when available). As the father of two wonderful young children, you can be sure I will be keeping an idea on this one and will post anything I hear.