Parents often sign a waiver of liability form when their children participate in organized sports. Parents generally understand that there is an inherent risk of injury when their child plays soccer or baseball.
But is such a waiver enforceable when a parent agrees not to sue a commercial enterprise on behalf of their child? That is the issue that was addressed by the Maryland Court of Appeals in B.J.’s Wholesale Club, Inc. v. Russell Rosen ___ Md. ____ (2013). The warehouse club contained a play area for children. The parents signed a waiver not to sue the store if their child was injured in the play area. A child fell off a play apparatus and was seriously injured due to the absence of foam padding.
The Maryland Court of Appeals ruled that the parents’ waiver of liability on behalf of their child was enforceable. The appellate court reasoned that if parents in Maryland can settle personal injury claims on behalf of their children, parents also have the inherent authority to waive in advance personal injury claims on behalf of their children.
The profound effect of this ruling is that every for-profit daycare center, private school, and summer camp in Maryland will now require parents to waive their children’s potential personal injury claims. I advise parents to cross-out these so-called exculpatory clauses whenever they are encountered.