Parental control: should you, are you accepting responsibility for kids and when you should or can you not.

Once you accept responsibility, you are opening yourself up for any problem the minor may encounter.

This scenario came to me, and my reaction was the exact opposite of the person telling me about it.

Child is enrolled in a program. One parent enrolled the child. The other parent is making rules for how the child will act and what the child will wear (safety gear) while attending the program.

It is a community program, not away from home; it is something you drop your child off should participate in.

The one parent sends a letter to the program stating they expect the program to make sure the child wears the specific equipment. It is optional for all other participants to wear the specific equipment.

How the program responds will determine who is going to pay the child’s medical bills. Basically, the parent created a standard that if accepted by the program creates a duty upon the program.

My response.

I would have sent a letter to both parents that states:

It is your kid; we are not a babysitting service. If you want to make sure your child wears the gear, then you need to be here making sure your child is wearing the gear. You are allowed, in fact, encouraged to attend all practices, programs and meetings. If your child is here, you better be here too.

The other person’s response.

They’d better made sure the kid wears the gear.

The legal issue and concern?

The program is run by volunteers. One parent is saying to volunteers if you do not do what I say I am going to sue you if my child is hurt. The program has hundreds of kids, seriously hundreds of kids some nights, and a few volunteers, (when were there ever enough volunteers.)

The parent is making a duty that the program can either accept or not accept and if they do nothing they are accepting the standard created by the program. “I am not responsible for your child.”

Will this create a duty on the part of every other child in the program?

We are not legally responsible for your child; you are. (See A Parent (or Guardian) is still in control of a child, no matter what the volunteer may want, http://rec-law.us/zN0jcl). The program has no responsibility if the parent is present. Why accept the possibility that you cannot control a teenager and therefore, will get sued because of it?

Why Volunteer and Put Up with Crap like This!

What type of parent are you that you can’t take the time to spend time with your child but threaten litigation if your child gets hurt. “Here you take your time to take care of my kid and I’m going to sue you over it.”

Actually, I just would have thrown the kid out of the program. No program, run by volunteers for other people’s kids need this.

Kid programs are not where parents drop off kids and go on with their lives. Kid programs are where families work to help the community, and the kid to grow, learn and expand their horizons. Kids programs are not so parents get a break from their kids. Youth programs are for youth and that does not mean that those adults who take time away from their family should be subject to suit by parents who won’t take the time.

If you volunteer your time and someone who does not volunteer puts a burden on you to watch their kid how would you feel?

If you are volunteering your time, and some parent comes to you and says you have to do things this way, hand them the clipboard and whistle and walk away. It is not worth it.

Other articles about the legal issues of Volunteers:

Adult volunteer responsibility ends when the minor is delivered back to his parents.                               http://rec-law.us/yVBckK

A Parent (or Guardian) is still in control of a child, no matter what the volunteer may want.                                        http://rec-law.us/zN0jcl

Adult volunteer responsibility ends when the minor is delivered back to his parents.                                                        http://rec-law.us/wynrnO

 

What do you think? Leave a comment.

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By Recreation Law    Rec-law@recreation-law.com      James H. Moss         #Authorrank

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This article takes a real look at the risks parents allow their children to face

A parent and a child together, anywhere, are safer than a child alone at home.

This is a great essay on parenting, and the risks that a parent chooses to allow a child to face. The article looks at traveling with children or even unborn fetus in the backcountry by canoe and backpack.

It is a great article.

The article compares those risks to driving in a car with kids or the toxins found in every home.

I love this quote from the article: “Because here’s the other thing. Playing it safe is a matter of perspective.”

What is “The author does a great job of explaining it.

Routinely, we pile our children into cars and drive around at lethal speeds. We litter our homes with toxic substances, spray our yards with pesticides, keep firearms, eat food full of chemicals, breathe polluted air, let our kids drive, and put them in social contexts where bad things happen all the time.

We think little of these dangers because they are routine. Everyone does it. Nobody questions it.

I found the article had a simpler statement. Any kid is safer when the child’s parents are with the child. Canoeing across a lake in Northern Canada parent and child is safer than any child alone in a household. If the canoe tips, there is the child’s PFD, the canoe and the parent to assist the child. Alone at home, there is nothing but dangerous, under the kitchen sink, in the closet, high on a shelf.

We spend millions on keeping kids safe. We litigate millions when kids get hurt. Maybe we need to take a look at parenting as the major reason why kids get hurt.

Actually, it is a lack of parenting.

See Does Taking Risks Make You a Dangerous Parent?

What do you think? Leave a comment.

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Information, Education and knowledge prevent a mother from suing a camp and the Girl Scouts

Buck, v. Camp Wilkes, Inc. 906 So. 2d 778; 2004 Miss. App. LEXIS 1141

Besides top bunk of a bunk bed is just not a dangerous instrumentality.

The mother of a thirteen-year old girl sued the Girl Scouts of Gulf Pine Council, Inc., the troop leader of her daughter’s unit and the camp when the girl fell off the top bunk of a bunk bed injuring her. The basis of the suit was the defendant’s actions caused or contributed to the thirteen-year  olds fall. After the defendants were dismissed on summary judgment by the trial court the mother appealed claiming the lower court failed to determine the following:

(1) in failing to follow existing standards in granting the defendants’ motions for summary judgment, (2) in finding no merit to Buck’s argument that a causal relationship existed between Boozer’s temporary absence at the time of the accident and Jamie’s falling from the bed, and in applying the wrong standard when considering Boozer and the Girl Scouts’s lack of supervision, and (3) in ruling as a matter of law that a bunk bed is not a dangerous instrumentality and that Appellees‘ use of bunk beds did not amount to a failure on their part to use reasonable care in providing Jamie a reasonably safe place to sleep.

The entire case revolved around what did the injured girl’s mother know?

The mother took her daughter to camp and helped set up her bed the first night. The second night the group moved to another cabin because the first cabin did not have a working refrigerator. The mother was not there for the move or the remaining nights. The girls decided to sleep on the top bunks, even though lower bunks were available.

The second night after the move the third night in total, the thirteen-year old rolled off the bunk and fell suffering injuries.

So?

The first argument was dismissed because there was no legal (causal) relationship between the defendant leader leaving for an errand and the girl falling out of the bunk. No supervision when the girl fell would have prevented her from falling.

The plaintiff then argued, as part of the first appeal argument that the girls should not have been allowed to sleep on the top bunk. However, the court found the plaintiff presented no evidence that bunk beds or sleeping on the top bunk by thirteen-year old girls were dangerous.

The court then looked at whether bunk beds were a dangerous instrumentality. This means that in and of themselves, bunk beds are dangerous. Guns are probably the best example of a dangerous instrumentality. However, the court found that there was no evidence the beds where dangerous on their face. The mother during her deposition testified that she knew her daughter might be sleeping on a bunk bed, expressed no concerns about that fact and did not inform anyone that she did not want her daughter sleeping on the bed.

The court referred to a New York decision that held that an innkeeper is not responsible for the beds, when the parent is the one who chooses whether or not their child can sleep in it.

Finally, the court looked at the failure to warn issue. A land owner owes a duty of care to someone on the land based on the relationship between the land owner and the person. Here, the thirteen-year old was an invitee. A landowner’s duty to an invitee is “exercising reasonable care to keep its premise’s safe, or to warn Jamie [the injured girl] of any hidden or concealed perils of which it knew, or should have known, in the exercise of reasonable care.”

Here again the court had no evidence in front of it showing that bunk beds were dangerous so that the landowner, the camp, needed to inform the mother of the dangers.

So Now What?

What stands out in this case is the fact the mother, and probably the daughter, knew what the daughter was going to do and did not stop those acts. If a parent and a child know and understand what the risk of the activity is, then it is difficult for them to prove that the risks were dangerous. If the risks were dangerous, then why didn’t the mother inform the daughter or the troop leader that she did not want her daughter participating in the particular risks?

Here, the proof came out in a deposition. However, I believe that is relying on luck to hope that discovery will save your case. Better to point out all the risks of the activity to the parents and children and be able to prove that you did point them out.

There are two ways of doing that. The first is to put the risks in a release and have the parents sign the release. This works for single day activities were the risks can be easily identified…..to some extent.

Better to put everything you can on your website. A movie of the cabins showing bunk beds would have also proven the points to the parents and the court. If each cabin is different have the parents look at the cabins that their child is staying in. Always point out that cabins are different and some have other features and numerate the risks.

Do the same with the dining hall, health club, paths and all buildings and activity areas. Give the parents every opportunity to experience the camp without leaving their computer. No matter what you show it will help sell the camp and keep parents informed of the risks.

Proving the parent watched the videos is easy. On all of your literature tell the parents to go to the website and look around. On the release, have the parents agree that they did go to the website and look around.

If you think, the videos are difficult to do, then don’t. Turn it into a project and have the kids make them!

What do you think? Leave a comment.

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Copyright 2012 Recreation Law (720) Edit Law

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Florida statute that allows a parent to release a minor’s right to sue

TITLE 43.  DOMESTIC RELATIONS (Chs. 741-753)

CHAPTER 744.  GUARDIANSHIP

PART III.  TYPES OF GUARDIANSHIP

GO TO FLORIDA STATUTES ARCHIVE DIRECTORY

Fla. Stat. § 744.301 (2012)

§ 744.301.  Natural guardians

   (1) The mother and father jointly are natural guardians of their own children and of their adopted children, during minority. If one parent dies, the surviving parent remains the sole natural guardian even if he or she remarries. If the marriage between the parents is dissolved, the natural guardianship belongs to the parent to whom custody of the child is awarded. If the parents are given joint custody, then both continue as natural guardians. If the marriage is dissolved and neither the father nor the mother is given custody of the child, neither shall act as natural guardian of the child. The mother of a child born out of wedlock is the natural guardian of the child and is entitled to primary residential care and custody of the child unless a court of competent jurisdiction enters an order stating otherwise.

(2) Natural guardians are authorized, on behalf of any of their minor children, to:

   (a) Settle and consummate a settlement of any claim or cause of action accruing to any of their minor children for damages to the person or property of any of said minor children;

   (b) Collect, receive, manage, and dispose of the proceeds of any such settlement;

   (c) Collect, receive, manage, and dispose of any real or personal property distributed from an estate or trust;

   (d) Collect, receive, manage, and dispose of and make elections regarding the proceeds from a life insurance policy or annuity contract payable to, or otherwise accruing to the benefit of, the child; and

   (e) Collect, receive, manage, dispose of, and make elections regarding the proceeds of any benefit plan as defined by s. 710.102, of which the minor is a beneficiary, participant, or owner, without appointment, authority, or bond, when the amounts received, in the aggregate, do not exceed $ 15,000.

(3) In addition to the authority granted in subsection (2), natural guardians are authorized, on behalf of any of their minor children, to waive and release, in advance, any claim or cause of action against a commercial activity provider, or its owners, affiliates, employees, or agents, which would accrue to a minor child for personal injury, including death, and property damage resulting from an inherent risk in the activity.

   (a) As used in this subsection, the term “inherent risk” means those dangers or conditions, known or unknown, which are characteristic of, intrinsic to, or an integral part of the activity and which are not eliminated even if the activity provider acts with due care in a reasonably prudent manner. The term includes, but is not limited to:

      1. The failure by the activity provider to warn the natural guardian or minor child of an inherent risk; and

      2. The risk that the minor child or another participant in the activity may act in a negligent or intentional manner and contribute to the injury or death of the minor child. A participant does not include the activity provider or its owners, affiliates, employees, or agents.

   (b) To be enforceable, a waiver or release executed under this subsection must, at a minimum, include the following statement in uppercase type that is at least 5 points larger than, and clearly distinguishable from, the rest of the text of the waiver or release:

                 NOTICE TO THE MINOR CHILD‘S NATURAL GUARDIAN

            READ THIS FORM COMPLETELY AND CAREFULLY. YOU ARE

   AGREEING TO LET YOUR MINOR CHILD ENGAGE IN A

   POTENTIALLY DANGEROUS ACTIVITY. YOU ARE AGREEING THAT,

   EVEN IF ( name of released party or parties ) USES

   REASONABLE CARE IN PROVIDING THIS ACTIVITY, THERE IS A

   CHANCE YOUR CHILD MAY BE SERIOUSLY INJURED OR KILLED

   BY PARTICIPATING IN THIS ACTIVITY BECAUSE THERE ARE

   CERTAIN DANGERS INHERENT IN THE ACTIVITY WHICH CANNOT

   BE AVOIDED OR ELIMINATED. BY SIGNING THIS FORM YOU ARE

   GIVING UP YOUR CHILD’S RIGHT AND YOUR RIGHT TO RECOVER

   FROM ( name of released party or parties ) IN A

   LAWSUIT FOR ANY PERSONAL INJURY, INCLUDING DEATH, TO

   YOUR CHILD OR ANY PROPERTY DAMAGE THAT RESULTS FROM

   THE RISKS THAT ARE A NATURAL PART OF THE ACTIVITY. YOU

   HAVE THE RIGHT TO REFUSE TO SIGN THIS FORM, AND

   ( name of released party or parties ) HAS THE

   RIGHT TO REFUSE TO LET YOUR CHILD PARTICIPATE IF YOU

   DO NOT SIGN THIS FORM.

   (c) If a waiver or release complies with paragraph (b) and waives no more than allowed under this subsection, there is a rebuttable presumption that the waiver or release is valid and that any injury or damage to the minor child arose from the inherent risk involved in the activity.

      1. To rebut the presumption that the waiver or release is valid, a claimant must demonstrate by a preponderance of the evidence that the waiver or release does not comply with this subsection.

      2. To rebut the presumption that the injury or damage to the minor child arose from an inherent risk involved in the activity, a claimant must demonstrate by clear and convincing evidence that the conduct, condition, or other cause resulting in the injury or damage was not an inherent risk of the activity.

      3. If a presumption under this paragraph is rebutted, liability and compensatory damages must be established by a preponderance of the evidence.

   (d) Nothing in this subsection limits the ability of natural guardians, on behalf of any of their minor children, to waive and release, in advance, any claim or cause of action against a noncommercial activity provider, or its owners, affiliates, employees, or agents, to the extent authorized by common law.

(4) All instruments executed by a natural guardian for the benefit of the ward under the powers specified in this section are binding on the ward. The natural guardian may not, without a court order, use the property of the ward for the guardian’s benefit or to satisfy the guardian’s support obligation to the ward.

HISTORY:  S. 1, ch. 74-106; s. 8, ch. 75-166; s. 7, ch. 75-222; s. 1, ch. 77-190; s. 3, ch. 79-221; s. 17, ch. 89-96;  s. 22, ch. 92-200;  s. 66, ch. 95-211;  s. 73, ch. 97-170;  s. 11, ch. 2002-195;  s. 8, ch. 2005-101;  s. 3, ch. 2006-178, eff. July 1, 2006;  s. 2, ch. 2010-27, eff. Apr. 27, 2010.

NOTES:

AMENDMENTS

   The 2005 amendment by s. 8, ch. 2005-101, effective June 1, 2005, rewrote (2).

   The 2006 amendment by s. 3, ch. 2006-178, effective July 1, 2006, in (1), substituted “the surviving parent remains the sole natural guardian even if he or she” for “the natural guardianship shall pass to the surviving parent, and the right shall continue even though the surviving parent” in the second sentence and made minor stylistic changes; substituted “Natural” for “The natural guardian or” at the beginning of (2); substituted “amounts received, in the aggregate, do” for “amount involved in any instance does” in the last undesignated paragraph in (2); in (3), inserted “for the benefit of the ward” and substituted “specified” for “provided for” in the first sentence and added the last sentence; and deleted former (4).

   The 2010 amendment added (3); redesignated former (3) as (4); and substituted “this section are” for “subsection (2) shall be” in the first sentence of (4).

NOTE.–

   Created from former s. 744.13.

FLORIDA STATUTES REFERENCES

   Chapter 549. Automobile Race Meets, F.S. § 549.09. Motorsport nonspectator liability release.

   Chapter 739. Florida Uniform Disclaimer of Property Interests Act, F.S. § 739.104. Power to disclaim; general requirements; when irrevocable.

   Chapter 744. Guardianship, F.S. § 744.387. Settlement of claims.

FLORIDA ADMINISTRATIVE CODE REFERENCES

   Chapter 19-11 Procedures for the Public Employee Optional Retirement Program, F.A.C. 19-11.003 Distributions from Frs Investment Plan Accounts.

1. Judgment against a mother in her daughter’s claim against a boutique alleging negligent ear piercing was improper; an indemnification agreement signed by the mother violated public policy. Fla. Stat. § 744.301(3) did not include releasing the commercial activity provider from liability for its own negligence. Claire’s Boutiques, Inc. v. Locastro, 2011 Fla. App. LEXIS 6662 (Fla. 4th DCA May 11, 2011).

2. Despite a father’s claim that Georgia was the home state of his child born out of wedlock for purposes of custody under Fla. Stat. § 61.514 of the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act, a Florida circuit court had jurisdiction to enter an emergency child pick-up order ex-parte because: (1) the child’s mother was a Florida resident when the child was born, the child was born in Florida, and the mother, after living in Georgia for a time, returned to live in Florida; (2) the order simply enforced the mother’s presumptive rights under Fla. Stat. § 744.301(1) until a court determined otherwise and was not a determination as to the father’s ultimate custody rights; and (3) the emergency order was not inconsistent with O.C.G.A. § 19-2-4(a), O.C.G.A. § 19-7-22(a) and (c), and O.C.G.A. § 19-7-25. Perez v. Giledes, 912 So. 2d 32, 2005 Fla. App. LEXIS 13310 (Fla. 4th DCA 2005).

3. When a parent is awarded custody of a child following a dissolution of marriage to the other parent, Fla. Stat. § 744.301(1) does not automatically extinguish the rights of a noncustodial parent as natural guardian of his child; guardianship is dependent on the custody of the child and if the custodial parent dies, the natural guardianship passes to the surviving parent. Lusker v. Guardianship of Lusker, 434 So. 2d 951, 1983 Fla. App. LEXIS 19487 (Fla. 2nd DCA 1983).

4. Trial court properly dismissed the information charging defendant with interference with custody in violation of Fla. Stat. § 787.03 where an order from another state had relinquished custody of the children to defendant and the mother. Furthermore, the court reversed the trial court’s declaration that Fla. Stat. § 744.301(1) was unconstitutional because resolution of the case did not require such a declaration. State v. Earl, 649 So. 2d 297, 1995 Fla. App. LEXIS 307 (Fla. 5th DCA 1995).

5. Pursuant to Fla. Stat. § 744.301(1) a mother, the non-custodial parent, had a right to custody of her child upon the death of the father, the custodial parent, where the father obtained custody of the 10 month old child when the parents divorced, the father moved with his child and new wife to another county three years after the divorce and actively thwarted the mother’s attempts to visit her child so that the mother was unable to see her child for seven years, and the father’s widow, who sought custody of the child upon the father’s death, was unable to prove by clear and convincing evidence that the mother was unfit. Webb v. Webb, 546 So. 2d 1062, 1989 Fla. App. LEXIS 2951 (Fla. 3rd DCA 1989), review denied by 553 So. 2d 1168, 1989 Fla. LEXIS 1234 (Fla. 1989).

6. Mere fact that a father had enforceable rights and obligations to his child born out of wedlock by virtue of his acknowledgement of paternity did not equate to his having a right to temporary custody superior to the mother’s prior to a court declaration to that effect. Perez v. Giledes, 912 So. 2d 32, 2005 Fla. App. LEXIS 13310 (Fla. 4th DCA 2005).

7. Trial court properly dismissed the information charging defendant with interference with custody in violation of Fla. Stat. § 787.03 where an order from another state had relinquished custody of the children to defendant and the mother. Furthermore, the court reversed the trial court’s declaration that Fla. Stat. § 744.301(1) was unconstitutional because resolution of the case did not require such a declaration. State v. Earl, 649 So. 2d 297, 1995 Fla. App. LEXIS 307 (Fla. 5th DCA 1995).

8. When a parent is awarded custody of a child following a dissolution of marriage to the other parent, Fla. Stat. § 744.301(1) does not automatically extinguish the rights of a noncustodial parent as natural guardian of his child; guardianship is dependent on the custody of the child and if the custodial parent dies, the natural guardianship passes to the surviving parent. Lusker v. Guardianship of Lusker, 434 So. 2d 951, 1983 Fla. App. LEXIS 19487 (Fla. 2nd DCA 1983).

9. Trial court properly dismissed the information charging defendant with interference with custody in violation of Fla. Stat. § 787.03 where an order from another state had relinquished custody of the children to defendant and the mother. Furthermore, the court reversed the trial court’s declaration that Fla. Stat. § 744.301(1) was unconstitutional because resolution of the case did not require such a declaration. State v. Earl, 649 So. 2d 297, 1995 Fla. App. LEXIS 307 (Fla. 5th DCA 1995).

10. Where child’s father had executed agreement to pay for child’s required medical care, the hospital was not foreclosed from seeking recovery against the mother under an implied in law contract predicated upon her duty to support her child under Fla. Stat. § 744.301. Variety Children’s Hospital, Inc. v. Vigliotti, 385 So. 2d 1052, 1980 Fla. App. LEXIS 17190 (Fla. 3rd DCA 1980).

11. Admitted father of premature infant girl was a natural guardian of the infant under Fla. Stat. § 744.301(1), despite infant’s illegitimate status; therefore, unwed father was responsible for infant’s necessary emergency medical services. De Costa v. North Broward Hosp. Dist., 497 So. 2d 1282, 1986 Fla. App. LEXIS 10561 (Fla. 4th DCA 1986).

12. Fla. Stat. § 744.301(1) provides that the mother of a child born out of wedlock is the natural guardian of the child and is entitled to primary residential care and custody of the child unless a court of competent jurisdiction entered an order stating otherwise. Muniz v. State, 764 So. 2d 729, 2000 Fla. App. LEXIS 8142 (Fla. 2nd DCA 2000).

13. Judgment against a mother in her daughter’s claim against a boutique alleging negligent ear piercing was improper; an indemnification agreement signed by the mother violated public policy. Fla. Stat. § 744.301(3) did not include releasing the commercial activity provider from liability for its own negligence. Claire’s Boutiques, Inc. v. Locastro, 2011 Fla. App. LEXIS 6662 (Fla. 4th DCA May 11, 2011).

1. Florida Civil Procedure, Chapter 9. Amended and Supplementary Pleadings; Pretrial Procedure, § 9-3. Settlements.

2. Florida Estates Practice Guide, Chapter 18 Beneficiaries’ Rights, Part I. Legal Background, § 18.11 Disclaimer of Interest in Property.

3. Florida Estates Practice Guide, Chapter 26 Guardians, Part I. Legal Background, § 26.04 Natural Guardians.

4. Florida Estates Practice Guide, Chapter 26 Guardians, Part I. Legal Background, § 26.43 Litigation Involving Ward.

5. Florida Estates Practice Guide, Chapter 36 Right to Property of an Intestate, Part III. Forms, § 36.204 Petition for Authorization to Execute Qualified Disclaimer.

6. Florida Estates Practice Guide, Appendix PRG Florida Probate and Guardianship Rules, Part I General, Rule 5.040. Notice.

7. Florida Family Law, Division I Marriage, Chapter 3 Cohabitation, B. Rights and Obligations of Cohabitating Partners and their Children, § 3.11 Rights and Obligations Concerning Children.

8. Florida Family Law, Division IV Dissolution of Marriage, Chapter 32 Parental Responsibility and Timesharing, Part I. Legal Background, C. Basis for Determinations of Parental Responsibility and Timesharing, § 32.20 Parents’ Rights and Duties.

9. Florida Family Law, Division IV Dissolution of Marriage, Chapter 32 Parental Responsibility and Timesharing, Part I. Legal Background, D. Effect of Shared Parental Responsibility and Timesharing Determinations, § 32.30 Rights and Duties of Parents.

10. Florida Family Law, Division IV Dissolution of Marriage, Chapter 32 Parental Responsibility and Timesharing, Part II. Practice Guide, B. Preliminary Determinations, § 32.111 Action for Shared Parental Responsibility.

11. Florida Family Law, Division IV Dissolution of Marriage, Chapter 33 Child Support, Part I. Legal Background, § 33.01 Parents’ Duty to Support Child.

12. Florida Family Law, Division IV Dissolution of Marriage, Chapter 33 Child Support, Part II. Practice Guide, B. Preliminary Determinations, § 33.110 Duty to Support Child.

13. Florida Family Law, Division IV Dissolution of Marriage, Chapter 33 Child Support, Part II. Practice Guide, B. Preliminary Determinations, § 33.116 Child Support Order in Paternity Action.

14. Florida Family Law, Division IV Dissolution of Marriage, Chapter 82 Modification of Child Support, Part I. Legal Background, § 82.03 Practice and Procedure.

15. Florida Family Law, Division V Parent-Child Relationships, Chapter 90 Paternity, Part I. Legal Background, A. Paternity and the Parent-Child Relationship, § 90.03 Interests and Status of Natural Father.

16. Florida Family Law, Division V Parent-Child Relationships, Chapter 90 Paternity, Part I. Legal Background, A. Paternity and the Parent-Child Relationship, § 90.06 Father’s Rights to Parental Responsibility and Timesharing.

17. Florida Family Law, Division V Parent-Child Relationships, Chapter 90 Paternity, Part I. Legal Background, B. Establishing Paternity in Paternity Proceeding, § 90.20 Overview of Paternity Proceeding.

18. Florida Family Law, Division V Parent-Child Relationships, Chapter 92 Nonparental Custody, B. Proceedings Involving Nonparental Custody, § 92.10 Type of Proceedings.

19. Florida Family Law, Division VI Other Procedures, Chapter 101 Disabilities of Minority, A. Disabilities of Minority, § 101.03 Other Aspects of Disabilities of Minority.

20. Florida Probate Code Manual, Chapter 1 Intestate Succession, § 1.12 Disclaimer.

21. Florida Probate Code Manual, Chapter 5 Rights of the Decedent’s Children, § 5.13 Disclaimer.

22. Florida Probate Code Manual, Chapter 19 Appointment and Removal of Guardians, § 19.03 Natural Guardians.

23. Florida Probate Code Manual, Chapter 19 Appointment and Removal of Guardians, § 19.09 Guardians Ad Litem.

24. Florida Probate Code Manual, Chapter 20 The Guardian as a Fiduciary, § 20.02 Powers of Natural Guardian.

25. Florida Probate Code Manual, Chapter 20 The Guardian as a Fiduciary, § 20.04 Powers and Duties of Guardian Ad Litem.

26. Florida Probate Code Manual, Chapter 20 The Guardian as a Fiduciary, § 20.11 Bringing and Defending Actions; Settling Claims.

27. Florida Probate Code Manual, Florida Probate Rules, Scope.

28. Florida Real Estate Transactions, Part II. The Deed, Chapter 10. Parties to the Deed, § 10.03 Deeds by Minors.

29. Florida Torts, VIII. Sources of Compensation, Chapter 141 Settlement and Release, I. Legal Background, A. Settlement, 1. Settlement Procedures and Techniques, § 141.06 Statutes Affecting Settlements.

30. Florida Torts, VIII. Sources of Compensation, Chapter 141 Settlement and Release, I. Legal Background, B. Releases, § 141.53 Enforcement and Avoidance.

31. Florida Torts, VIII. Sources of Compensation, Chapter 141 Settlement and Release, I. Legal Background, B. Releases, § 141.54 Release by Natural Guardian for Minor Participating in Activities with Inherent Risks.

32. LexisNexis Practice Guide: Florida Civil Motion Practice, Chapter 13 Settlement, IV. Entering Into a Settlement Agreement, § 13.19 Authority of Third Persons to Enter Settlement Agreements.

33. LexisNexis Practice Guide: Florida Estate & Probate Practice, Chapter 10 Wills: Administrative Provisions, II. Appointing Fiduciaries, § 10.06 Appoint a Guardian.

34. LexisNexis Practice Guide: Florida Personal Injury, What’s New, Scope.

35. LexisNexis Practice Guide: Florida Personal Injury, Chapter 9 General Liability, I. Overview, § 9.02 Master Checklist.

36. LexisNexis Practice Guide: Florida Personal Injury, Chapter 9 General Liability, VI. Determine Express Assumption of Risk, § 9.36 Checklist.

37. LexisNexis Practice Guide: Florida Personal Injury, Chapter 9 General Liability, VI. Determine Express Assumption of Risk, § 9.38 Determine Whether Parent Executed Enforceable Pre-Injury Release.

38. LexisNexis Practice Guide: Florida Personal Injury, Chapter 9 General Liability, VI. Determine Express Assumption of Risk, § 9.38B Establish Immunity for Motorsport Activities.

39. LexisNexis Practice Guide: Florida Pretrial Civil Procedure, Chapter 4 Parties, III. Party Must Have Standing in Action, § 4.08 Standing Generally Requires Party’s Interest in Action.

40. Planning for the Elderly in Florida, Chapter 17 Guardianship, § 17.06 Types of Guardianships.

41. Southeast Transaction Guide, Unit II. Estate Planning, Division 1. Estate Planning and Wills, § 85.03 Legal Background.

42. Southeast Transaction Guide, Unit II. Estate Planning, Division 1. Estate Planning and Wills, § 85.04 Preliminary Determinations.

43. Southeast Transaction Guide, Unit V. Personal Transactions, Division 2. Family Affairs, § 340.02 Research Guide.

44. Southeast Transaction Guide, Unit V. Personal Transactions, Division 2. Family Affairs, § 340.03 Legal Background.

45. Southeast Transaction Guide, Unit V. Personal Transactions, Division 2. Family Affairs, § 341.02 Research Guide.

46. Southeast Transaction Guide, Unit V. Personal Transactions, Division 2. Family Affairs, § 362.22 Right to Custody of Minor Children.

1. Case Comment: Constitutional Law: The Limits of a Patient’s Right to Refuse Medical Treatment, Troy Rillo, April 1994, 46 Fla. L. Rev. 347.

2. Comments: Lagging Behind The Times: Parenthood, Custody, and Gender Bias in the Family Court, Cynthia A. Mcneely, Summer 1998, 25 Fla. St. U.L. Rev. 891.

3. A Cry For Help: An Argument For Abrogation Of the Parent-Child Tort Immunity Doctrine in Child Abuse and Incest Casesa Cry For Help: An Argument For Abrogation Of the Parent-Child Tort Immunity Doctrine in Child Abuse and Incest Cases, Caroline E. Johnson, Fall 1993, 21 Fla. St. U.L. Rev. 617.

4. The Minefield of Liability for Minors: Running Afoul Of Corporate Risk Management in Florida, Jordan A. Dresnick, April 2010, 64 U. Miami L. Rev. 1031.

5. The Minefield of Liability for Minors: Running Afoul of Corporate Risk Management in Florida, Jordan A. Dresnick, April 2010, 64 U. Miami L. Rev. 1031.

6. Quasi-Marital Children: The Common Law’s Failure in Privette and Daniel Calls For Statutory Reform, The Honorable Chris W. Altenbernd, Winter 1999, 26 Fla. St. U.L. Rev. 219.

7. Student Work: Redefining Parenthood: Removing Nostalgia From Third-Party Child Custody and Visitation Decisions in Florida, Sarah E. Kay, Fall 2009, 39 Stetson L. Rev. 317.

8. The Validity of Binding Arbitration Agreements and Children’s Personal Injury Claims in Florida After Shea v. Global Travel Marketing, Inc., Douglas P. Gerber, Fall 2003, 28 Nova L. Rev. 167.

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Alabama follows the majority of states and does not allow a parent to sign away a minor’s right to sue.

J.T., Jr., a minor v. Monster Mountain, Llc, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 130407; 78 Fed. R. Serv. 3d (Callaghan) 182

This is an interesting case based on who actually signed the release on behalf of and in an attempt to bind the minor.

The minor traveled from Indiana to Alabamato ride at the defendant’s motocross facility. The parents of the minor signed a power of attorney giving the

English: Great Seal of The State of Alabama

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coach the authority to sign on their behalf “all release of liability and registration forms and to give consent for medical treatment” for the minor while on the trip. This was a proper power of attorney, signed by the parents and notarized.

The coach then registered the plaintiff each day and signed the release on the plaintiff’s behalf.

While riding on the third day the minor went over a jump. While airborne he saw a tractor that had been parked on the track which he collided with. The minor sued in Federal District Court for his injuries claiming the act of leaving the tractor on the track was negligent.

Summary of the case

Under Alabama law, like in most jurisdictions a minor cannot contract. That is done so that adults will not take advantage of minors. The exception to the rule is a minor can contract for necessities. Necessities are food, utilities, etc., those things necessary to live.

Also under Alabama law, and most other states, a parent cannot sign away a minor’s right in advance except in with regard to insurance. A parent can sign away a minor’s right in an insurance policy with regard to the subrogation right in the insurance policy. The court reasoned the minor cannot have the benefits of the insurance without the responsibility also.

So Alabama is like the majority of states. A parent cannot sign away a minor’s right to sue and a minor cannot contract or sign a release.

So Now What?

In most states, the only real defense available to stop a lawsuit by a minor is assumption of the risk. Because a minor cannot contract, the minor cannot agree to assume the risk in writing. You the outdoor business or program must be able to show that you gave the minor the information so the minor knew the risks and accepted them. It is up to the trier of fact to determine if the minor understood those risks.

1. Make your website an information resource. Any and every question about the activity should be there including what the risks are and how to deal with them. Put in pictures, FAQ’s and videos. Show the good and the bad.
2. Provide a bonus or a benefit for completing watching and reviewing the website. If a minor collects the bonus or benefit then you have proof the minor know of the risks.
3. Review the bigger risks and the common ones with all minors before they are allowed to participate in the activity.
4. Still have the parents sign a release. Remember the parents have a right to sue for the minor’s injuries. A release will stop the parent’s suit. Put in the release that the parent has reviewed the website with the minor to make sure the minor understands the risks of the activity.

What do you think? Leave a comment.

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Iowa does not allow a parent to sign away a minor’s right to sue.

Galloway v. State of Iowa, 790 N.W.2d 252; 2010 Iowa Sup. LEXIS 109

Iowa follows the majority of states finding that the state has an interest in protecting kids from allowing their parents to think.

This case was brought by a parent whose child was hit by a car on an out of state field trip. The trip was an Upward Bound trip sponsored by University of Northern Iowa. The mother sued the State of Iowa, parent entity of the university. The University filed a motion for summary judgment based on two releases signed by the mother. The trial court granted the motion for summary judgment, and the case was appealed to the Iowa Supreme Court. There is no information on whether there was a decision by the Iowa Appellate Court or if the appeal was directly to the Iowa Supreme Court.

An appeal from the trial court to the supreme court of a state can be done, but it is very rare and only for unusual or immediate circumstances.

The sole issue the court in its opinion discussed was the issue of whether a parent could sign away a minor’s right to sue in a preinjury release.

What are you supposed to say about a case when the court quotes this statement from the plaintiff’s argument?

In particular, she [plaintiff] contends public policy should preclude enforcement of releases executed by parents because parents are ill-equipped to assess in advance the nature of risks of injury faced by children while they are participating in activities at remote locations under the supervision of others and because parents are uninformed of the nature and extent of the gravity of the injuries to which their children may be exposed when the releases are executed. [Emphasis added]

Parents are ill equipped to assess the nature of the risk facing a child? Isn’t that what parenting is all about? When I see a parent reading the ingredients on a box in the supermarket with a toddler in the cart is the parent doing that to have something to talk about that night?

The court then stated:

By signing a preinjury waiver, a parent purports to agree in advance to bear the financial burden of providing for her child in the event the child is injured by a tortfeasor’s negligence. Sometimes parents are not willing or able to perform such commitments after an injury occurs. [Emphasis added]

The court followed that statement with:

If parents fail to provide for the needs of their injured children, and the preinjury waiver in favor of the tortfeasor is enforced, financial demands may be made on the public fisc to cover the cost of care.

So the potential risk to the coffers of the State of Iowa is greater than the need to be a responsible parent. The court sent the case back to the trial court for trial.

So? Summary of the case

There were several issues that this court ignored in favor of getting to the conclusion it wanted to reach. The releases, two of them, were poorly written and did not provide any information as to what the risks of the trip were. The releases appear to be set out in full in the decision which is below.

This case was not over after this decision. The plaintiff is a fourteen year old girl who was hit by a car crossing the street. There is probably a great assumption of the risk defense that would either significantly lower the damages or possibly allow the University/State to win. If this case is not settled after this decision, then there is a significant issue at trail as to whether the child assumed the risk of the injury.

However, Iowa, with this decision falls into the category where any organization or group dealing with kids must do so very carefully. Any child without health insurance is going to look for ways to pay the bills. Any child with insurance will have an insurance company looking for reimbursement for their losses because of the injuries.

So Now What?

Isn’t that another issue that parents are tasked with? What role is a parent going to play in the future based on the reasoning of the Iowa court? It seems that what the child is going to wear to school will be the limit. If the parent is presented with the proper information the parent should decide whether the financial risks and their resources are adequate to deal with the issues. If the parent is not presented with the proper information is it not the parent’s responsibility to study and find out what those risks are?

Youth organizations and youth group’s sole chance it to have a bill passed in the Iowa legislature that over turns this decision.

What do you think? Leave a comment.

Copyright 2011 Recreation Law (720) Edit Law, Recreation.Law@Gmail.com
Twitter: RecreationLaw
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Summer camp supervision issues are always part of any lawsuit and tough to determine in New York.

Kosok v. Young Men’s Christian Association of Greater New York, 24 A.D.2d 113; 264 N.Y.S.2d 123; 1965 N.Y. App. Div. LEXIS 3042

As long as there was no notice of a problem and no rule of the camp or standard for the camp, assumption of the risk is a valid defense against minors claim.

New York had dozens of decisions concerning lawsuits by injured campers. It is going to take months to figure out if there is any discernable rule or idea on how to run a camp in New York. This decision is a start.
At this camp groups of boys were divided into cabins by age groups. After lunch “camp regulations” required a rest period. Younger campers had to rest on their beds; older boys were just required to do sedentary activities. (Why you don’t want to wear out kids, by the time they go to bed at camp is beyond me?)

During one of the rest periods, a group of boys threaded a fishing line over a rafter and attached a galvanized bucket to it. When someone would walk underneath the bucket, they would lower it where it would hit the unsuspecting camper making a pop. After another camper had the prank played on them the plaintiff was enticed into the cabin where the bucket was dropped. The plaintiff suffered unspecified injuries.

The plaintiff sued the camp and the two boys involved in the prank. The two boys were dismissed from the lawsuit by the trial court. The plaintiff sued for “improper supervision and a failure to provide proper medical care after the accident.” The case went to trial and the jury found for the plaintiff on the supervision claim and for the defendant camp for the medical care claim. The camp appealed.

This decision has great quotes, which have been quoted in numerous other New York decisions, and then, to some extent, seems to be ignored. However, the court found that boys at camp have fun.

Summer camp, it will be seen that constant supervision is not feasible. 
[constant supervision] Nor is it desirable. One of the benefits of such an institution is to inculcate self-reliance in the campers which on overly protective supervision would destroy. 
A certain amount of horseplay is almost always to be found in gatherings of young people, and is generally associated with children’s camps. It is only to be discouraged when it becomes dangerous. Nothing in the incident itself or the surrounding circumstances indicates any notice to defendant that such was likely to result here.

The court did find that the standard of care for a camp was that of a reasonable prudent parent. That standard though varies with the age of the child.

The court held the jury verdict should be reversed, and the case dismissed because the court found no negligence on the part of the defendant.

So?

This case is 52 years old. It is a still relevant law in New York. However, I believe that based on other New York decisions and the standard of care for campers in New York has changed. Many decisions quote the language of this case, and then find a difference in the facts to hold the camp liable.

So Now What?

To work within the boundaries of these and other cases the best result would be to inform parents and campers of the risk. Pictures, videos, brochures and the website are a start. Have the parents and campers to acknowledge that there is horseplay when kids get together and have them acknowledge the kids get hurt.
This should be in a written document that refers to the website as the source of more information or even better information they have reviewed. An assumption of the risk form for the minors and a release for the parents should do more than just have the simple legal language of a release. Each document, or the same document, if written correctly, should identify the activities the minors will be engaging in and the possible risks for all of those activities.

When you are creating your website, don’t be afraid to show kids being unsuccessful as well as successful. Kids fall while playing sports, kids get tagged out running bases and canoes tip over throwing kids in the water. Follow the old Clint Eastwood movie; show the good and the bad, maybe the ugly.

A scrape on a camper is a good way to show parents that you have a medical team on hand. It also lets parents realize that kids are outdoors, having fun and probably getting hurt.

The more you can prove you informed the parents and the campers of the risks the greater your chances at success in keeping everyone happy and out of court.

What do you think? Leave a comment.

Copyright 2011 Recreation Law (720) Edit Law, Recreation.Law@Gmail.com

Twitter: RecreationLaw
Facebook: Rec.Law.Now
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Release stops suit for falling off horse at Colorado summer Camp.

Hamill v. Cheley Colorado Camps, Inc., 2011 Colo. App. LEXIS 495 

I always enjoy it when people with money, sue to get more money….. 

In this case, the minor plaintiff fell off a horse and suffered a broken arm. She sued for her damages. What makes this sort of amusing is the minor had attended the camp two prior years. Her mother has signed the release three consecutive times. However, the plaintiff sued.

The allegations in the complaint were the wrangler had inappropriately saddled the horse she rode. This is a classic claim used to get around equine liability acts. Equine liability acts are 100% effective. Since they have been passed no horse has been sued. However, suits against horse owners have increased.

For additional articles about equine (horse) lawsuits and why Equine Liability Acts have little value see: $2.36 M awarded to a boy kicked by horse during inner-city youth program and $1.2 M award in horseback riding fatality in Wyoming.

The district court (trial or first court) granted the defendant camp’s motion for summary judgment. And the Plaintiff appealed. The basis for the appeal was:

she was a minor and her mother did not make an informed decision, the agreement did not extinguish her negligence claims and that disputed material facts preclude the grant of summary judgment on her gross negligence claim. 

The first issue the court reviewed was whether the release was valid under Colorado law. The court found there were four tests that had to be met for the release to be valid.

(1) the existence of a duty to the public;
(2) the nature of the service performed;
(3) whether the contract was fairly entered into; and
(4) whether the intention of the parties is expressed in clear and unambiguous language.

B & B Livery, Inc. v. Riehl, 960 P.2d 134, 136 (Colo. 1998) (citing Jones, 623 P.2d at 376).
The court found the first two tests were met because recreational activities create no duty to the public and are not necessary for living.

The next test was whether the contract was fairly entered into. This is a case of whether the injured party had the opportunity to go somewhere else or not participate. Whether one party was at the mercy of the other party because of unequal bargaining power. However, again, recreational activities are not something that a parent or participant is forced to undertake. On top of that the mother admitted she voluntarily signed the release…..three times.

More importantly the court found the plaintiff could have attended other camps. She was not forced to attend the defendant camp.

The last test also can be examined multiple ways. First way is, is the agreement plan on its face is it written in such a way that the parties understand what it says or should have understood what it said. Another way is whether the agreement, the release, clearly evidenced the intent of the party’s.

Here you can release one party from negligent conduct as long as the intent of the parties is clearly expressed in the contract. Here the release expressly contained language that the court found was clear to the plaintiff and her mother of the intent of the release.

The agreement sufficiently placed Hamill’s mother on notice that the “[e]quipment used . . . may break, fail or malfunction” and that “counselors . . . may misjudge . . . circumstances.” The breadth of the release persuades us that the parties intended to disclaim legal liability for negligence claims. Indeed, misjudging a situation can amount to negligence. 

The classic I now did not understand the release is also looked at this point, and the court rejected that argument.

An agreement with such plain and unambiguous terms will not fail because one of the parties, in hindsight, now claims to have misunderstood the scope of that agreement — to govern only conduct outside of Cheley’s control — based on ambiguities not readily apparent within the four corners of the agreement. 

The court succinctly summed up its decision about the release stating:

Because the agreement did not implicate a public duty, did not involve an essential service, was fairly entered into, and it plainly expressed the intent to release prospective negligence claims, we hold that the agreement is valid. 

The court then reviewed the recently enacted Colorado statute allowing a parent to sign away a minor’s right to sue C.R.S. § 13-22-107. A recent decision by the Colorado Appellate court had thrown out a release signed by a mother because it was not sufficient to meet the requirements of the statute. See Releases are legal documents and need to be written by an attorney that understands the law and the risks of your program/business/activity and your guests/members/clientele which discussed the case Wycoff v. Grace Community Church of the Assemblies of God, 2010 Colo. App. LEXIS 1832.

The statute requires the parent who is signing a release for a minor to be voluntary and informed. The court stated that “A parent’s decision is informed when the parent has sufficient information to assess the potential degree of risks involved, and the extent of possible injury.” quoting Wycoff v. Grace Community Church of the Assemblies of God, 2010 Colo. App. LEXIS 1832.

Here the mother and the plaintiff knew of the risks because the plaintiff had attended the camp two prior years and had ridden horses those two years.

The final argument was made that the release did not bar claims for gross negligence. However, the court found the complaint and the other documents in the case did not plead any facts giving rise to a claim that would be a gross negligence claim. Under the Colorado law gross negligence is “willful and wanton conduct, that is, action committed recklessly, with conscious disregard for the safety of others.” Nothing in the documents indicated the defendant had acted willfully or wantonly.

One interesting part of this case was a statement quoted in the case from a deposition of the mother. The defendant’s attorney referred to Christopher Reeves, who suffered a fall from a horse becoming a quadriplegic and eventually died from the injuries. The mother answered she personally knew Mr. Reeve. If you want to do a little research, match the names of the parties, and determine who would know other movie stars.

So?

Again and again, and again, make sure you have a well written release. That was the first and best thing done in this case. The release stood up to scrutiny by the trial court and the appellate court.

The next thing is always have good facts. The court pointed out the wrangler checked the saddle two or three times before the plaintiff rode the horse which eliminated the gross negligence argument. Good facts do not mean to only defend yourself when you are going to win. It means to do things right, and you don’t have to worry and if you do have a problem you will win.

Here the wrangler had been well trained in how to deal with the situation and problems of kids at summer camps riding horses. Before the plaintiff was allowed to mount the horse the saddle was checked and double checked.

So Now What?

Hire well, train well and treat well; the three ideas to keep employees part of your defense team. Your employees do not need to lawsuits and not have a lawsuit become a forum for any employee to come back at you.

See 7 Mistakes Made by People, who are called Defendant. Hire good people to begin with. Work hard at hiring people who like people and understand the job. The job is not to show off to little kids about how great a horseman you are, the job is to get kids on horses and have them have a good time. The job is to have the kids leave the ring the same way they entered the ring with a big grin on top of a horse.

Never hire for skills except people skills. You can teach anyone to ride a horse, row a raft or run a ropes course. Finding someone who can remember to double check everything, deal with a problem child and entertain at the same time is a little harder. However, those people are out there, work harder and find them.

7 Mistakes Made by People who are called Defendant.

1. Hire and retain Uncaring Employees: Hire Well, Train Well, and Treat Well
2. Failing to Know Your Customers and why they are buying from you.
3. Failing to Treat Your Customers the Way They Want to Be Treated:
4. Examining the problem from Your Perspective: Your customer sees the problem differently than you. The customer may not even understand the problem.
5. Placing a ridiculous value on principles and pride. Principles & Pride Goethe before a Lawsuit
6. Never know Why you are being sued: Sticking your head in the sand, or passing the problem to a lawyer does not resolve the problem.
7. Forgetting What Your Mother Taught You: If you act like your mother taught you, you won’t be sued.

What do you think? Leave a comment.

Copyright 2011 Recreation Law (720) Edit Law, Recreation.Law@Gmail.com

Twitter: RecreationLaw
Facebook: Rec.Law.Now
Facebook Page: Outdoor Recreation & Adventure Travel Law
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Keywords: #recreationlaw, #@recreationlaw, #cycling.law #fitness.law, #ski.law, #outside.law, #recreation.law, #recreation-law.com, #outdoor law, #recreation law, #outdoor recreation law, #adventure travel law, #law, #travel law, #Jim Moss, #James H. Moss, #attorney at law, #tourism, #adventure tourism, #rec-law, #rec-law blog, #recreation law, #recreation law blog, #risk management, #Human Powered, #human powered recreation,# cycling law, #bicycling law, #fitness law, #recreation-law.com, #backpacking, #hiking, #Mountaineering, #ice climbing, #rock climbing, #ropes course, #challenge course, #summer camp, #camps, #youth camps, #skiing, #ski areas, #negligence, #equine, #summer camp, #camp, #Cheley, #horse, #Hamill, #star wars, #gross negligence, #release, #waiver, #wrangler, #saddle,

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Statutes and prospective language to allow a parent to sign away a minor’s right to sue.

Now is the time to move a statute like this forward in your state.

Three states allow a parent to sign away a child’s right to sue by statute: Alaska, Florida and Colorado. Five (maybe 6) states allow a parent to sign away a minor’s right to sue by Supreme Court Decision. See States that allow a parent to sign away a minor’s right to sue. With more legislatures leaning to the conservative side, now is the time to introduce and get a law like these passed in your state. To assist you, at the end I have included language that I would propose for the statute.

Colorado

C.R.S. §§13-22-107. Legislative declaration – definitions – children – waiver by parent of prospective negligence claims
(1) (a) The general assembly hereby finds, determines, and declares it is the public policy of this state that:
(I) Children of this state should have the maximum opportunity to participate in sporting, recreational, educational, and other activities where certain risks may exist;
(II) Public, private, and non-profit entities providing these essential activities to children in Colorado need a measure of protection against lawsuits, and without the measure of protection these entities may be unwilling or unable to provide the activities;
(III) Parents have a fundamental right and responsibility to make decisions concerning the care, custody, and control of their children. The law has long presumed that parents act in the best interest of their children.
(IV) Parents make conscious choices every day on behalf of their children concerning the risks and benefits of participation in activities that may involve risk;
(V) These are proper parental choices on behalf of children that should not be ignored. So long as the decision is voluntary and informed, the decision should be given the same dignity as decisions regarding schooling, medical treatment, and religious education; and
(VI) It is the intent of the general assembly to encourage the affordability and availability of youth activities in this state by permitting a parent of a child to release a prospective negligence claim of the child against certain persons and entities involved in providing the opportunity to participate in the activities.
(b) The general assembly further declares that the Colorado supreme court’s holding in case number 00SC885, 48 P.3d 1229 (Colo. 2002), has not been adopted by the general assembly and does not reflect the intent of the general assembly or the public policy of this state.
(2) As used in this section, unless the context otherwise requires:
(a) “Child” means a person under eighteen years of age.
(b) For purposes of this section only, “parent” means a parent, as defined in section 19-1-103 (82), C.R.S., a person who has guardianship of the person, as defined in section 19-1-103 (60), C.R.S., a person who has legal custody, as defined in section 19-1-103 (73), C.R.S., a legal representative, as defined in section 19-1-103 (73.5), C.R.S., a physical custodian, as defined in section 19-1-103 (84), C.R.S., or a responsible person, as defined in section 19-1-103 (94), C.R.S.
(3) A parent of a child may, on behalf of the child, release or waive the child’s prospective claim for negligence.
(4) Nothing in this section shall be construed to permit a parent acting on behalf of his or her child to waive the child’s prospective claim against a person or entity for a willful and wanton act or omission, a reckless act or omission, or a grossly negligent act or omission.

Florida Statute on Guardian right to sign away a minor’s right to sue.

Fla. Stat. § 744.301 (2010)
§ 744.301. Natural guardians
(3) In addition to the authority granted in subsection (2), natural guardians are authorized, on behalf of any of their minor children, to waive and release, in advance, any claim or cause of action against a commercial activity provider, or its owners, affiliates, employees, or agents, which would accrue to a minor child for personal injury, including death, and property damage resulting from an inherent risk in the activity.
(a) As used in this subsection, the term “inherent risk” means those dangers or conditions, known or unknown, which are characteristic of, intrinsic to, or an integral part of the activity and which are not eliminated even if the activity provider acts with due care in a reasonably prudent manner. The term includes, but is not limited to:
1. The failure by the activity provider to warn the natural guardian or minor child of an inherent risk; and
2. The risk that the minor child or another participant in the activity may act in a negligent or intentional manner and contribute to the injury or death of the minor child. A participant does not include the activity provider or its owners, affiliates, employees, or agents.
(b) To be enforceable, a waiver or release executed under this subsection must, at a minimum, include the following statement in uppercase type that is at least 5 points larger than, and clearly distinguishable from, the rest of the text of the waiver or release:

Alaska

Alaska Stat. § 09.65.292 (2011)
Sec. 09.65.292. Parental waiver of child’s negligence claim against provider of sports or recreational activity
(a) Except as provided in (b) of this section, a parent may, on behalf of the parent’s child, release or waive the child’s prospective claim for negligence against the provider of a sports or recreational activity in which the child participates to the extent that the activities to which the waiver applies are clearly and conspicuously set out in the written waiver and to the extent the waiver is otherwise valid. The release or waiver must be in writing and shall be signed by the child’s parent.
(b) A parent may not release or waive a child’s prospective claim against a provider of a sports or recreational activity for reckless or intentional misconduct.
(c) In this section,
(1) “child” means a minor who is not emancipated;
(2) “parent” means
(A) the child’s natural or adoptive parent;
(B) the child’s guardian or other person appointed by the court to act on behalf of the child;
(C) a representative of the Department of Health and Social Services if the child is in the legal custody of the state;
(D) a person who has a valid power of attorney concerning the child; or
(E) for a child not living with the child’s natural or adoptive parent, the child’s grandparent, aunt, uncle, sister, or brother who has reached the age of majority and with whom the child lives;
(3) “provider” has the meaning given in AS 09.65.290;
(4) “sports or recreational activity” has the meaning given in AS 09.65.290.

My suggestion on how the law should read.

Legislative declaration – definitions – minor children – waiver by parent or guardian of prospective negligence claims
(1) (a) The general assembly hereby finds, determines, and declares it is the public policy of this state that:
(I) Children of this state should have the maximum opportunity to participate in sporting, recreational, educational, and other activities where certain risks may exist;
(II) Public, private, and non-profit entities providing these essential activities to children in _____________ (state) need a measure of protection against lawsuits, and without the measure of protection these entities may be unwilling or unable to provide the activities;
(III) Parents have a legal and fundamental right and responsibility to make decisions concerning the care, custody, and control of their minor children. The law has long presumed that parents act in the best interest of their children. Troxel v. Granville, 530 U.S. 57; 120 S. Ct. 2054; 147 L. Ed. 2d 49; 2000 U.S. LEXIS 3767; 68 U.S.L.W. 4458; 2000 Cal. Daily Op. Service 4345; 2000 Daily Journal DAR 5831; 2000 Colo. J. C.A.R. 3199; 13 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S 365 (Troxel is a US Supreme Court decision that allows a parent to sign away a child’s right to sue. See Courtney Love in Outdoor Recreation Law.)
(IV) Parents make conscious choices every day on behalf of their children concerning the risks and benefits of participation in activities that may involve risk;
(V) These are proper parental choices on behalf of children that should not be ignored. So long as the decision is voluntary and informed, the decision should be given the same dignity as decisions regarding schooling, medical treatment, and religious education; and
(VI) It is the intent of the general assembly to encourage the affordability and availability of youth activities in this state by permitting a parent of a child to release a prospective negligence claim of the child against certain persons and entities involved in providing the opportunity to participate in the activities.
(a) “Child” means a person under eighteen years of age at the time of incident, loss, injury or accident.
(b) For purposes of this section only, “parent” means a parent, a person who has guardianship of the person, a person who has legal custody, a legal representative, a physical custodian or a responsible person, in temporary custody and control of the minor Child.
(3) A Parent of a Child may, on behalf of the Child, release and waive, in advance, any claim or cause of action against a private, commercial, governmental or non-profit, activity provider, business, program or activity, or its owners, affiliates, employees, volunteers or agents, which would accrue to a minor child for personal injury, including death, and property damage resulting from the risk or an inherent risk in the activity or the Child’s prospective claim for negligence.
(4) Nothing in this section shall be construed to permit a parent acting on behalf of his or her child to waive the child’s prospective claim against a person or entity for a willful and wanton act or omission, a reckless act or omission, or a grossly negligent act or omission.

To work you will need to round up everyone who deals with kids. Little League and other youth sports groups, day care centers, youth programs like Scouts, commercial programs like camps, day camps and anyone serving youth as well as major organizations that may be in your state like NOLS and Outward Bound.

Your statutory language may vary based on current state laws and court interpretations, but go for it.  You can only lose time and get a civics lesson.

This won’t save you money on your insurance that never happens. However, it may help keep your insurance from going up and keep you out of court.

What do you think? Leave a comment.

 
Copyright 2010 Recreation Law (720) Edit Law, Recreation.Law@Gmail.com

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Wrong release for the activity almost sinks YMCA

A release must apply to the activity and the person who you want to make sure cannot sue you.

McGowan et al v. West End YMCA, 2002 Cal. App. Unpub. LEXIS 3018

English: YMCA logo (international and USA)

Image via Wikipedia

 

In this case, a mother signed her son up to attend a day camp sponsored by the YMCA. While attending the day camp, the child was accidentally hit in the head by another child with a baseball bat. The mother sued for the child’s injuries.

The YMCA argued that the mother had signed a release, and therefore, the YMCA should be dismissed. The mother argued that the release only applied to her, not her child because the release was unclear as to who was being released in the document. (The mother argued the release was required for her to walk around the YMCA to sign her son up for the camp.)

In this case, the YMCA used its general release for people on the premises of the YMCA as a fitness facility, for its day camp. The release did not indicate a parent would be signing for the child nor did the release look to the issues the child would encounter, only an adult using the YMCA or any other gym.

The mother argued because the release did not identify her son, the injured party, as who the release applied to the release only applied to her while she was on the premises. Nothing in the document indicated that the mother was signing a release on behalf of her son.

Like most releases used in gyms and fitness centers it is written for the adult signing up to use the gym.
Under the law, “An agreement exculpating the drafter from liability for his or her own future negligence must clearly and explicitly express that this is the intent of the parties.”

What saved the YMCA was a technicality in the language of the release. To go to the day camp, the child attending must be a member of the YMCA. The mother of the injured child was not a member of the YMCA. However, her son was. Because the release referred to the YMCA member as the person giving up their right to sue, the court held the release applied to the child not the mother. This language allowed the court to find for the YMCA.

So?

Releases are not documents you can merely find on the internet or put together based on language that sounds good. Think about the contract you used to purchase your house. It was a 10 to 20 page document used to buy something of value greater than $100,000 or so.

If someone is suing you for several million dollars do you want to rely on a document that you put together or worse stole from the business down the street.

Here again you have to make sure your release is properly written. You may have several different releases for different parties or activities. I commonly suggest that people use different paper to print the different release forms. Here the YMCA should have had a general release for use of its fitness and other facilities and a release for its day camp. One could have been printed on white paper and the other on green. Even better, put the release online and save paper.

Your release must identify who is protected by the release and who the release is going to stop from suing. In many cases, one parent will sign on behalf of a child. However, in some states, unless the language is clear, that parent may not be preventing the other parent from suing. Identify every person who can sue in the release as well as every person who cannot be sued. When in doubt, have both parents sign the release.

For information on other states where a parent can sign away a minor’s right to sue see: States that allow a parent to sign away a minor’s right to sue–Updated 2011
 

What do you think? Leave a comment.

Copyright 2011 Recreation Law (720) Edit Law, Recreation.Law@Gmail.com

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Releases are legal documents and need to be written by an attorney that understands the law and the risks of your program/business/activity and your guests/members/clientele.

Wycoff v. Grace Community Church of the Assemblies of God, 2010 Colo. App. LEXIS 1832

The case is a little confusing to read because there was another case that was appealed by the same parties whom this case refers to. Additionally, the act of the trial court in reducing the damages is confusing. However, this case is a very clear example of how a badly written release is going to cost the church and its insurance company millions.

A church group had taken kids to a camp for a “Winterama 2005.” The church had rented the camp for the weekend. The plaintiff was 17 and not a member of the church. Her parents had paid a reduced fee for her to attend the activity. As part of that registration her mother signed a “Registration and information” form. One of the activities was pulling them behind an ATV on an inner tube on a frozen lake.

There was a large boulder embedded in the lake. On the second loop, the plaintiff’s inner tube hit the boulder breaking her back.

The plaintiff’s mother had signed the “Registration and Information” form. On the form was the following sentence.

I will not hold Grace Community Church or its participants responsible for any liability, which may result from participation.

The case went to trial, and the jury returned a $4M verdict in favor of the plaintiff. The defendant and plaintiff appealed after the judge reduced the damages to the limits of the insurance policy of the church, $2M plus interest.

The appellate court first looked at Colorado case law on releases and the legislative history of § 13-22-107(3), C.R.S. 2010. That statute, C.R.S. § 13-22-107(3), was enacted to allow a parent to sign away a minor’s right to sue. The statute, and the decision in Jones v. Dressel, 623 P.2d 370, 376 (Colo. 1981), has a requirement that the parental decision must be “informed” and with the intent to release the [defendant] from liability. Jones v. Dressel was the first Supreme Court review of releases in the state of Colorado as they applied to recreational activities.

The court looked at the language in the “Registration and Information” form to see if it informed the parents of the activities and risks their child would be undertaking. The court looked at the language and found:

There is no information in Grace’s one-page registration form describing the event activities, nothing describing the associated risks. Stating that the children would participate in “Winterama 2005 and all activities associated with it” does not indicate what the activities would involve and certainly does not suggest they would include ATV-towed inner-tube excursions around a frozen lake.

The court also looked at prior decisions concerning releases and found that “in every Colorado Supreme Court case upholding an exculpatory clause. The clause contained some reference to waiving personal injury claims based on the activity being engaged in.”

The court concluded that:

Grace’s [the defendant’s] form made no reference to the relevant activity or to waiving personal injury claims. The operative sentence (the third one in a paragraph) states only that plaintiff will not hold Grace “responsible for any liability which may result from participation.” Surrounding sentences address other issues: the first gives permission to attend; the second consents to medical treatment; and the fourth agrees to pick up disobedient children.
… nowhere does the form provide parents with information allowing them to assess the degree of risk and the extent of possible injuries from any activity. The form is legally insufficient to release plaintiff’s personal injury claims.

The court then looked at the second major issue that has been surfacing in many outdoor recreation cases of late. The plaintiff sued claiming a violation of the duties owed by the landowner, a premises liability claim. That means that the landowner owed a duty to the plaintiff to warn or eliminate dangers, which the landowner failed to do.

The defendant argued that it was not the landowner; it had just leased the land for the weekend. However, the court found this argument lacking. The premise’s liability statute § 13-21-115(1), C.R.S. 2010, defines landowner to include someone leasing the property.

This places two very important burdens on anyone leasing land or using land.

  1. They must know and identify the risks of the land before bringing their clients/guests/members on the land.
  2. The release must include premise liability language.

The second one is relatively easy to do; however, the effectiveness is going to be difficult. The first places a tremendous burden on anyone going to a camp, park or other place they do not own for the day, weekend or week.

  • Your insurance policy must provide coverage for this type of claim.
  • You need to inspect the land in advance, do a due diligence to make sure you know of any risks or dangers on the land.
  • You must inform your guests/members/clients of those risks.

The final issue that might be of some importance to readers is the court reviewed the legal concept of charitable immunity. At one time, charities could not be sued because they “did good” for mankind. That has evolved over time so that in most states charitable immunity no longer exists. At present, and with this court decision, the assets of the charity held may not be levied by a judgment. What that means is after someone receives a judgment against a charity, the plaintiff with the judgment then attempts to collect against the assets of the charity. Some of the assets may not be recovered by the judgment creditor because they are part of the charitable trust.

What does that mean? If you are a charity, buy insurance.

Of note in this case is the plaintiffs are the injured girl and her insurance company: The opinion states “Plaintiff and her insurer, intervenor American Medical Security Life Insurance Company (insurer).” Although set forth in the decision, her insurance company is probably suing under its right in the subrogation clause. A subrogation clause in an insurance policy says your insurance policy has the right to sue under your name or its own name against anyone who caused your damages that the insurance company reimbursed.

So?

As I have said numerous times, your release must be written by an attorney that understands two things.

  1. Release law
  2. The activities you are going to engage in.
  3. The risks those activities present to your guests/members/clients.
  4. Any statutes that affect your activity and/or your guests/members/clients.

Any release should include a good review of the risks of the activities and a description of the activities so adults and parents can read and understand those risks. Any minor who can read and understand the risks should also sign the release as proof the child assumed the risk. Assumption of the risk works to win cases against minors when the release is thrown out or in those cases where a release cannot be used against a minor.

Find a good attorney that knows and understands your activities, those risks and the laws needed to write a release to protect you.

What do you think? Leave a comment.

Copyright 2010 Recreation Law (720) Edit Law, Recreation.Law@Gmail.com

Twitter: RecreationLaw
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Minnesota decision upholds parent’s right to sign away a minor’s right to sue.

Case was a baseball camp where the minor was injured during horseplay. 

Moore vs. Minnesota Baseball Instructional School, 2009 Minn. App. Unpub. LEXIS 299 

This is a pretty simple case. The defendants operated a baseball camp on the campus of the University of Minnesota. The plaintiff’s mother had signed her son up for the camp, online or electronically. On the last day after lunch a group of students went to the courtyard. The plaintiff sustained a permanent eye injury when they started throwing woodchips from the courtyard at each other.

The father sued on behalf of his son. The trial court, a district court in the opinion, granted the defendant’s motion for summary judgment. The father on his and his son behalf appealed.

The plaintiff first argued that the release, or assumption of the risk agreement as it was termed in the decision, should be “thrown out” because it could not be produced. Because the mother had signed online there was no signed document. On top of that, the system used by the defendant did not produce any document indicating who had signed what documents.

However, the defendant was able to show that the mother had signed other documents just like the release. A roster of those kids that had attended the camp that summer, with the injured minor’s name on it was produced. The camp through a director, also testified that if the mother had not signed the release, the minor would not have been allowed to attend the camp.

The mother’s deposition was also introduced. She could not deny filing out the forms online even though she did not remember the forms.

The plaintiff’s then argued that the language of the release did not cover the injury the minor sustained. The language only spoke to baseball and as such the release only covered injuries that the minor could have received playing baseball. Horsing around during free time therefore, was not covered by the release. The plaintiff also argued the language that excluded the claims; the release sentence was separate from the sentence that identified the risks. As such the release should be very narrowly construed.

Neither argument was accepted by the court. The court found that the release covered more than just baseball, and the release had to be read as a whole so the risk was incorporated into the exculpatory sentence.

The plaintiff then argued the exculpatory clause violated public policy. The court dismissed this argument. The court found that the baseball camp was not educational in nature. The training could be found through other sources and playing baseball was not essential or of great importance to members of the public.

So?
 
The rules of evidence have a procedure for admitting into trial documents that have been lost. The rule is based on procedure. The procedure to be allowed to go to a baseball camp required a parent to sign many documents. The child would not have been allowed at amp without signing all of the documents. A procedure was set up to show the mother had to have signed the release because her son was at the camp.
You should create a procedure for your business, camp or program. The best one I’ve seen for whitewater rafting was created by Mountain Waters Rafting. Guests were given their PFD’s (life jackets) when they handed in their releases. If a guest had on a PFD, the guest had signed a release.

The more you can identify a procedure that you used the same way every time, the easier to introduce a lost piece of paper.

Electronically, there can be several ways to make sure you can prove a person read and signed the release online. I first suggest you always tie a release into a credit card. The credit card company knows more about the holder of a credit card then you ever will. If the credit is accepted to pay for something on line, and the name on the release matches the name on the credit card you can prove the release was signed. If the trip or camp was paid for a release was signed.

You should also have a system that you are notified that each person has signed the documents. Create a way to download the information, name, address, etc. date and exact time the release was signed to your business computer and do so regularly. That information can be matched up, name, date and time to the credit card and payment used. Match this with your receipt of payment from the credit card company and you should have proof.

Make sure your release is written to cover all the risks of your program, business or activity. Here the language was broad enough the baseball program was covered for horseplay. How often do you feed guests, transport guests, and have guests just walking around that could be a chance to be injured. Your release needs to stop litigation, all types of litigation, not just what you face what you are selling to the public.

What do you think? Leave a comment.

 
Copyright 2010 Recreation Law (720) Edit Law, Recreation.Law@Gmail.com

Twitter: RecreationLaw
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Youth and Adult Molesters

Parks and Rec Business Magazine has a great article on background checks for adult volunteers of youth sports. It is a well written and well researched article that talks about an issue that is a common theme in many of my articles. The actions that people are taking only lull them into believing they are doing the right thing. In reality they are wasting time and money. The article Background Checks: Do they really get the job done? points out that most background checks are not going to find molesters.

What the article points out is no matter what an organization does, bad people are going to get through. In order to prevent this from happening, Parents must be involved in the process and keep their eye on the program and their children. Parents must make sure their child is never in a position where they can become a target. For an excellent discussion about this and a program to train kids see the Boy Scout of America program Guide to Safe Scouting. Several other sports organizations have developed similar programs.

From the Parent’s perspective you just can’t expect someone else to babysit your kids. No program whether sports oriented or program oriented is designed to work without the involvement of parents. The Boy Scouts of America requires the parent to agree to become involved when they sign their child up to be a scout. Dropping you children off and picking them up several hours later is a recipe for disaster both for you and your child.

For adult volunteers, be very wary of any parent who simply drops their kids off at your program. If you don’t know the parent, you will if something goes wrong and you won’t want too. The parents who sue are the ones who have no involvement in the program.

While investigating Boy Scout lawsuits I discovered one recurring theme. I boiled that analysis down to one simple question to determine whether or not a parent would sue for an injury to their child. The question? What is the name of the adult leader? If the parent answered Mr. Jones or Mr. Smith there was going to be a lawsuit. If the parents answered Bob or Jim then there was probably not going to be a lawsuit.

The difference was not the answer but how well the parents knew the person who was taking care of their kid and more importantly how well the parents were involved in the program. A parent who was involved in the program did not sue. Those parents knew how the program worked, invested their time in the program and were involved. Those parents knew the adult volunteer as a friend, as someone who invested their time and as such knew them by their first name.

Parents who were not involved did not understand the program, the work, the commitment the time it took adult volunteers to keep their child active and involved. Those parents were recognized more by their cars taillights because the only thing they saw was the parent driving away after dropping off the child.

Parents who are not involved or who do not understand the program are also the ones who will sue. They have no understanding of what the program is trying to accomplish or their understanding is superficial. They see a sports program as purely their child playing ball. They see the BSA or GSA as purely their child going camping. They have no concept of the time the volunteer invests. They do not understand the goals of the program and how those goals are achieved by the activity and not vice versa.

These parent’s kids are also the most likely to be molested because their parents are not around. A molester is looking for the kid that they can find alone. They stand out because they are out standing waiting to be picked up rather than being walked to their car by their parents.

Those programs can also be spotted by parents. Just as the victims are identified as being the ones left alone by parents, the problem adult volunteers are also alone. They seem to be the total and complete volunteer. They drive away or discourage help from other volunteers. They do not want help because it interferes with their ultimate goals.

Both types of people, children with no parental involvement and adults with no other parental involvement are possible problems.

 

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