Parent’s Waivers – Not the protection you think

How many times to we sign waivers on behalf of our children? Waivers for road trips, waivers to participate in sports, waivers to attend the theatre. In a recent publication from Elliot Special Risk, there was an article and a new precedent that has been established in Canadian courts that will directly affect business owners like you and your business insurance policy

Karate Kid can sue

A recent decision by the British Columbia Supreme Court states that parents do not have the right to waive their child’s right to sue by signing a release on the child’s behalf.

Victor Wong was 12 years old when his mother enrolled him and his two brothers at Lok’s Martial Arts Centre in Richmond, B.C. A requirement for enrolment was that the boys’ mother sign the “conditions of membership and release” form. She claims that she did not read it carefully or fully understand it, but she knew that if she did not sign it, her sons would not be allowed to enrol.

Wong, now 20, alleges that during a sparring match at the Centre, he was violently thrown to the floor, fracturing his arm and leaving him partially disabled. He is now suing the school, the sparring partner and the school owner, Michael Lok.

The defense argued that the claim should be dismissed because Wong’s mother signed the waiver when he started. Wong said that he did not sign a waiver of his legal rights and did not authorize his mother to waive any rights on his behalf.

The major significance of this case is that no prior case has ever properly addressed the issue of whether a parent can effectively execute a pre-tort release on behalf of a minor.

The Court found that Section 40 of the infant’s act allows parents and legal guardians the right to sign waivers for such things as consent to health care and school trips and it doesn’t permit a parent or guardian to bind an infant to an agreement waiving their rights to sue…

This is big for your business insurance policy as a client could sue and the settlement could be huge (considering the courts are awarding bigger and bigger settlements all the time – the latest was $18 million) . How does that  $2,000,000 business liability limit sound now?

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