Minors who sign releases or waivers of liability and suffer injury in sports due to negligence of another party will probably be able to recover under Pennsylvania or New Jersey law. In Pennsylvania, the reasoning behind this is that minors are not legally capable of entering into contracts. In New Jersey, the result is the same in that minor's are not able to waive liability for accidents. However, in New Jersey, the reasoning is that the state is viewed as a protector of minors and therefore any waivers executed by a minor will probably be stricken. For more information, access our free article about waivers of liability in Pennsylvania and New Jersey
But what about adults? In New Jersey, there is a good chance that an adult's waiver of liability will be upheld and will bar the injured adult's claim. There is room to argue against these waivers, however, success depends on the facts surrounding how the contract was signed and the type of sports involved. Pennsylvania isn't as stringent when it comes to an adult's waiver of liability. In Pennsylvania, it is easier to make the case that a waiver shouldn't be upheld because it was signed on a "take it or leave it basis", without room to negotiate.
In these cases, there is simply no way to be sure what the actual outcome will be unless and until there's a thorough investigation. Every case is different. Some defendants have poor record keeping and cannot even locate the signed waiver. When this happens, the waiver of liability becomes a non-issue. Of course, this is a rare occurrence, but it does happen.
Waivers of liability, in my view, should be analyzed purely from the standpoint of a contract, and the courts should apply a standard that requires the waiving party to knowingly and intelligently waive their right to sue in the event of injury.
In criminal law, courts must be satisfied that defendants enter a plea (a contract) knowingly, voluntarily and intelligently. Unfortunately, the same standard is not applied in the context of waivers of liability, but sometimes, the stakes are the same.
In catastrophic injury cases or cases of death from a sports related injury, upholding a waiver of liability is incredibly unfair, especially considering that these waivers are often buried in the middle of a multiple page contract and presented on a "take it or leave it basis." These waivers should be viewed solely in terms of contractual law and before upholding them, courts should be sure that the waiving party understood that they were waiving their right to sue in the event of injury.
Access our free legal article for more information about waivers of liability in New Jersey sports accidents
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Category: Sports & Recreation Accidents
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