Entertainment centers, bounce houses, waterparks for children have become extremely popular for such things as birthday parties and group gatherings. Typically, the facilities will have numerous activities for the children that involve physical activity such as jumping, climbing or sliding. Other facilities may be targeted toward children’s fitness activities and those are typically sports targeted programs or activities such as paintball.
Generally, when the children are dropped off at the facility paperwork is required to be filled out. Inevitably, part of the paperwork allows for a pre-injury release of claims should the child be injured at the facility. Texas has long held that pre-injury releases for adults that meet certain requirements are enforceable. The release must provide fair notice of its terms and the language must satisfy the express negligence test and the typesetting must be conspicuous. See – Quintana v. CrossFit Dallas, L.L.C., 347 S.Wo.3d 445, 450 (Tex. App.-Dallas (5th Dist., 2011, no pet.).
However, there is a difference between an adult signing a pre-release waiver of injury for their own claims and an adult signing away a child’s injury claim. Texas has a strong, long standing policy of protecting children’s interests.
The case of Munoz v. II Jaz Inc., 863 S.W.2d. 207 (Tex. App.—Houston [14th Dist.] 1993, no writ), involved a minor who was injured at an amusement park and brought a lawsuit to recover for the injury. The trial court granted a summary judgment in favor of the amusement park based on a pre-injury waiver signed by an adult sister. The summary judgment was reversed finding that a waiver signed by the minor’s older sister was invalid. The court in Munoz also stated that the parents themselves would not have been able waive the child’s rights.
More recently, the issue has been addressed in the Southern District of Texas in the case of Paz V. Life Time Fitness, Inc., 757 F. Supp. 2d 658 (S.D. Tex. 2010). In Paz, the judge held a pre-injury release of the minor child’s claims is not enforceable when involving commercial interests, as opposed to non-profits.
While there are defense attorneys in Texas who wish a minor’s pre-injury release would be effective in waiving a child’s claims, those interests are not in line with Texas policy.
It is noteworthy, the Texas approach favoring protecting minor’s rights has been adopted by majority of jurisdictions in the United States. For an interesting discussion see: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/fl-district-court-of-appeal/1383231.html.
Our child injury law firm has been helping families after serious accidents for over three decades. Call for a no cost consultation about your child’s rights and options- (281) 587-1111.