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Release of Liability Forms

On Behalf of | Apr 21, 2014 | Business Law

Release of Liability forms protect businesses from liability for dangerous activities by requiring that the participant sign a waiver before participating.

Many popular recreational activities are actually far more dangerous than their aforementioned leisurely description suggests.  While activities such as skydiving, bungee jumping, and scuba diving are well known to be inherently dangerous, there are many other activities that have higher statistical rates of injury. It is important to be mindful of how liability applies both to the host and the participant. Legal documents known as waivers and release forms are crucial to protecting the rights of both parties.

Owners of amusement and recreational businesses understand that the inherent presence of potential danger is a component of the fun for participants. Nonetheless, minimizing both physical and legal risk must be a top concern for both parties. To minimize the risk of physical injuries, both business owners and participants must adhere to strict safety regulations for the activity. To minimize legal troubles, businesses use a release of liability form.

A release of liability is a type of contract. It helps organizations avoid liability for injuries caused by simple negligence. The person signing the form acknowledges that they are engaging in a dangerous activity. They must also consent that the business will not be at fault for any damages-that they may incur from their voluntary participation in the activity.

In a recent reported opinion, the Maryland Court of Appeals acknowledged the validity of releases in commercial settings.  In BJ’s Wholesale Club, Inc. v. Rosen, the Court enforced a release and waiver signed by parents who allowed their minor child to use a supervised play area inside B.J.’s Wholesale Club.  In addition to reaffirming the validity of such releases, the Court also emphasized that Releases signed by parents on behalf of minor children are likewise enforceable.

Release of liability forms are generally short and simple. This is because people are often asked to sign them on the spot while registering for an event. Sometimes the release of liability language is on the back of a spectator ticket. For example, baseball spectators run the risk of being hit by balls or bats. Despite language commonly found on the back of sporting event tickets releasing the club from liability for spectators being hit by bats and balls being thrown into the stands, a recent lawsuit has been initiated against the Baltimore Orioles on behalf of a young girl struck by a ball during batting practice.  The Plaintiffs claim that they are not subject to the terms of the release because they were directed to stand in the Flag Court area of Camden Yards by an usher, thereby placing them in harms way.

Risk of injury is inherent in most activities in life. Signing away the ability to sue someone for damages is often literally concealed in the price of admission and participation. However, failing to appropriately address the matter in a legal and forthright manner can be particularly dangerous for business and property owners.

For more information about release of liability forms, please contact Kevin J. Mahoney at SMLH.