Last week Kentucky’s Supreme Court made a major decision that will protect the interest of minors for years to come. Unfortunately, it took a minor child getting injured(one of many), and her courageous mother to take the case to the court system. Generally, all parents or guardians sign waivers or exculpatory agreements on behalf of their minor children when entering a trampoline park. While several states have laws that already hold these waivers unenforceable, (check here to see the laws of your state), that is not the case everywhere.
The mother of an eleven year old girl who was hurt in 2015 took to the legal system to try and obtain justice for her daughter. The waiver she signed was a pre-injury waiver which “forever released” liability on behalf of the trampoline park. She felt that it was unfair to force a parent to release the possible negligent actions of a trampoline park. The court agreed.
In the opinion authored by Justice Laurance VanMeter, the Court sent a message that “simply put, the statutes of the General Assembly and decisions of this Court reflect no public policy shielding the operators of for-profit trampoline parks from liability.”
The Court went further to opine that the relevant public policy was regarding the decision for a parent to forfeit the future property right of a minor. I’m sure you are thinking “property right?”, but yes, the ability to bring a viable tort claim against a tortfeasor is a valid property right that cannot be waived away by someone else. This does not mean that all waivers in Kentucky are per se invalid, but this decision does a great deal to protect minors.
Kentucky law in general has a history of protecting minors, at least when it comes to contracts and torts. There are already several cases on the books that hold “parents have no right to compromise or settle their child’s cause of action,” and “parents have no right to enter into contracts on behalf of their children absent special circumstances.” To read more about those cases, click here.
With this new decision, the Kentucky Supreme Court made a significant stride in protecting minors, by ultimately ruing that there is “no relevant public policy to justify abrogating the common law to enforce an exculpatory agreement between a for-profit entity and a parent on behalf of her minor child.”
Put bluntly, the Court found no protection “shielding the operators of for-profit trampoline parks from liability.”
If you want to read the full case: click here.
If you want to read about the initial injury which led to the lawsuit, click here.