Can Any Adult Limit A Minor’s Right To Sue For Injuries?
In many commercial contracts and agreements, you may have noticed that businesses will require you to sign clauses that limit your right to sue. These may prohibit you from suing altogether, or compel you to go to arbitration instead of going to court.
Are They Enforceable?
As a general rule, these clauses are enforceable, although there are requirements and restrictions on them, so if you did sign one, you should never assume that you can’t bring a lawsuit for personal injury. Still, signing one can make a personal injury case much more difficult.
Signing Away the Rights of Minors
But what about kids? Many of these kinds of agreements are signed in activities and events related to children. For example, sports, gyms, watersports, trampoline or activity parks, amusement parks, extreme sports, and other activities, often require, as a condition of participation, that the participant sign a hold harmless agreement or an agreement that requires arbitration.
Of course, kids can’t bind themselves to contracts so that means that a parent or legal guardian has to sign the agreement, when it’s the child that’s engaging in the activity.
Normally, that’s not a problem for the business—mom or dad signs on behalf of the child. But what happens when it’s someone other than mom or dad who signs that kind of agreement? Can someone who isn’t a legal parent or guardian bind a child to these kinds of agreements?
A Typical Situation
This happens more often than you may think.
Imagine that your child goes ice skating with her friend. Upon entering the skating rink, your child’s friend’s parent signs a hold harmless agreement, on behalf of your child. Your child gets injured, because of the negligence of the rink.
Are you or your child bound by the hold harmless agreement, signed by the other parent?
The answer in many cases has been no—any type of an agreement that limits the rights of a child to sue for injuries, can only be signed by that child’s natural or legal parent or guardian.
But that isn’t the end of the inquiry, because every case is different, just as every hold harmless or arbitration clause is different. Some may require the signor to attest that he or she is allowed to bind the child, or limit the minor’s legal rights.
Some may also rely on apparent authority—that is, when someone acts as a minor’s parent, acts like the parent and agrees in writing that he or she is the child’s parent, that the business is entitled to rely upon that representation.
Courts have not ruled on that, but it is likely that would present a more difficult legal situation. That means that your child could have a problem in some cases, even when you weren’t the one agreeing to limit his or her legal rights.
Call the West Palm Beach personal injury attorneys at Pike & Lustig today if you or your child have been injured. We can anticipate the defenses that the other side may try to assert, and help you overcome them.