Court Rules that Parents Cannot Sign Waivers for their Children to Avoid Lawsuits Against Schools, Churches, or Other Business Entities for Personal Injuries

The Michigan Court of Appeals recently decided that a child’s right to sue for a personal injury is not prohibited, even if that child’s parent or legal guardian signed a waiver of liability form. The case involved a 5-year-old child who broke his leg jumping from an inflatable slide at an indoor commercial “bounce facility”.

The Court of Appeals applied a common law rule that, “in Michigan, a parent has no authority merely by virtue of the parental relation to waiver, release or compromise claims of his or her child. Generally speaking, the natural guardian has no authority to do an act which is detrimental to the child.” The holding, then, is that absent a specific statutory exception to the common law rule, a parent may not bind his or her child to a pre-injury waiver of liability for injuries incurred in either a commercial or non-profit setting.

Unless the Michigan legislature enacts new law to address this situation, the ruling by the Court will have significant impact on both commercial recreation endeavors, schools and non-profit organizations including churches. For more information regarding this case, please contact us at 231-271-4500.

Dan A. Penning
Farmington Hills and Suttons Bay, Michigan