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Tallahassee, Florida

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Brian Smith
Brian Smith
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Florida Supreme Court: Parents Can’t Waive Liability for Kids

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The Florida Supreme Court has ruled that parents cannot waive liability on behalf of their children by signing releases before the kids participate in motor sports and other hazardous activities. The 4-1 ruling Thursday, in the 2003 death of a 14-year-old boy who was riding an all-terrain vehicle at a commercial track, applies only to liability by businesses.

The ruling could have broad implications for businesses that offer such activities as go-cart and motocross racing, bungee jumping, horseback riding, parasailing and scuba diving.

"Florida’s children and parents need not worry, after today’s decision, that careless commercial operators may be immunized from their carelessness by the presence of an exculpatory clause in a ticket for admission,” Justice Harry Lee Anstead wrote in a concurring opinion.

The decision cleared the way for a lawsuit against the owners and manager of Thunder Cross Motor Sports Park in Okeechobee County, where Christopher Jones died after attempting a jump. He lost control and was ejected from the vehicle. It then landed on top of him. He got up and began walking way, but then collapsed and died.

The ruling appears to be limited to commercial activities, but Justice Peggy Quince commented in a footnote, that the main opinion "should not be read as limiting our reasoning only to … commercial activity.” Justice Quince also commented on the duty owed by business owners in such situations:

"Therefore, when a parent decides to execute a pre-injury release on behalf of a minor child, the parent is not protecting the welfare of the child, but is instead protecting the interests of the activity provider,” Quince wrote. “Business owners owe their patrons a duty of reasonable care.”

For more information about any type of accident claim, you can call our office at 866-735-1102 ext. 515 or visit our firm’s website. We will be glad to answer any questions that you might have.