New Jersey’s Supreme Court just ruled that public entities cannot condition provision of service on the recipient signing a liability waiver. Our Massachusetts schools require parents to sign such liability waivers before allowing our children to participate in school events, and the N.J. case now draws the validity of those waivers into question.
This N.J. case presents an argument that may give Massachusetts parents a means to still bring such claims for their children against public service entities, such as the public schools, for injuries their children sustain as a result of the negligent acts of the schools and its employees.
In Massachusetts the standard school waivers were fairly recently upheld by a Supreme Judicial Court case as being binding on the child, in a case involving a Newton cheerleader who got hurt, and the court confirmed that the signed waiver meant that child had lost her right to be compensated for her injuries. However, the N.J. case rationale creates a new possible opening for the student to argue that the waiver the school forced the parent to sign before allowing the student to participate in the sports activity should be void as against public policy where schools sports are such a “public service” provided by a government entity. Basically one would claim that participation in school sports cannot properly be conditioned upon waiving liability claims for injuries caused by the school’s negligence, because the school sports are part of the public service of education.