It’s summertime in New England, and the school year is just around the corner. This is the season to participate in camps and programs run by local recreation departments – and it’s nearly time to sign up for school extracurricular activities. As you and your children consider these programs, you may be asked to sign a form that claims to “release” the sponsor from liability for injuries incurred as a result of participation.
You may ask yourself: Can this release be enforced? Will it shield the sponsor from liability resulting from its own negligence? Can I, as a parent, sign a release that binds my minor child? As with most legal questions, the answer is: It depends.
Courts in other states (Washington, for example) have refused – as a matter of public policy – to enforce pre-injury releases that purport to shield a school district from liability for its own negligence. However, here in Massachusetts, such releases are likely to be enforced.
For a fuller discussion of this subject – including a summary of Sharon v. City of Newton, 437 Mass. 99 (Mass. 2002), the leading Massachusetts case on this issue, as well as practical tips for both sponsors of recreational activities and parents – please see No Escape from Release Forms or contact Faith D. Kasparian.