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KY Courts Rule Pre-Injury Releases and Liability Waivers for Minors Found Unenforceable

By Kyle Roby, Partner

Have you ever taken your child to a trampoline park or bouncy house facility and had to sign a liability waiver, or check-in on an I-pad, to release all claims in order for them to be able jump? Have you ever asked yourself “What did I just sign… and is it enforceable?” The Kentucky Supreme Court recently answered those questions in Miller v House of Boom. The Court found that pre-injury liability waivers between a for-profit entity and a parent on behalf of a minor child are against Kentucky law and unenforceable.

In this case, a mother took her eleven year-old daughter and a friend to House of Boom, a trampoline park in Louisville, Kentucky. As a part of the registration process, she had to sign a pre-injury liability waiver for her daughter so that in the event that she was injured, House of Boom was not liable. As it turns out, the child was injured on that day and the mother sued House of Boom on the child’s behalf. House of Boom asked the Court to declare the waiver enforceable and declare that the mother waived all rights for her minor child.

The Court looked at the various rights children have such as rights under personal injury law, property law and contract law. First, the Court examined personal injury settlements for minor children. If a minor child were to receive money for personal injuries, the parent is required to seek court permission to release their child’s claim. A parent cannot release their child’s claim without a court order as the child cannot sign a release. Next, the Court looked at whether common law allowed parents to enter into contracts on behalf of their children. The Court found parents were required to be appointed as guardians to contractually bind their children as children are not permitted to sign binding contracts.

The Court also examined what other jurisdictions had done as it related to pre-injury liability waivers a parent signed on behalf of a minor child. States such as Maryland have enforced these waivers. Other states such as North Carolina, Ohio, and Massachusetts have enforced such waivers between parents and non-profit entities. Michigan, Tennessee and New Jersey are a few of the several states that have declared a waiver between a parent and a for-profit entity unenforceable. The Court Miller v House of Boom found against the liability waiver to be unenforceable as a matter of law. The Court said, “A commercial entity has the ability to purchase insurance and spread the cost between its customers. It also has the ability to train its employees and inspect the business for unsafe conditions. A child has no similar ability to protect himself/herself from the negligence of others within the confines of a commercial establishment. If pre-injury releases were permitted for commercial establishments, the incentive to take reasonable precautions to protect the safety of minor children would be removed….. Absent special circumstances, a parent has no authority to enter into contracts on a child’s behalf.”

Following an injury, it is important to seek legal advice as soon as possible. If your or another party’s insurance company approaches you and asks you to sign paperwork, do not do so without consulting with an attorney. You want to be sure that all of your expenses are covered, and an experienced attorney can help you ensure that you receive all of the compensation that you deserve. Contact me, attorney Kyle Roby, at (270) 781-6500 or kroby@elpolaw.com if I can help you.

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