BY JULIE I. FERSHTMAN, ATTORNEY AT LAW
Stables and riding instructors often require their customers and guests to sign liability waiver/release documents. Who signs them?
Adults accompanying children (not parents or legal guardians)?
Only those who are riders?
Misunderstandings abound as to who at the stable should be permitted to sign these documents. This article offers some ideas.
MINORS AND WAIVERS/RELEASES
As a general matter, minors (people under the legal age of majority) cannot, on their own, sign liability waivers/releases. Minors can legally enter into contracts, but only for “necessities” of life. In the eyes of the law, recreational and equine activities do not qualify. Consequently, relying on a waiver/release signed only by a minor child can be a major mistake as the document is destined to fail.
Nationwide, courts have differed as to whether a parent or legally-appointed guardian can legally waive the claims of their minor children. Keep in mind that in states that have enforced parental-signed waivers/releases, a parent or legally appointed guardian must sign the document. Someone who merely has temporary custody of the child, such as a babysitter or relative, will not qualify. Because of this, if your business involves extensive work with minors – such as riding instruction, camps, or training of youth competitors – discuss with your attorney how the applicable laws impact your operations and whether you should tailor your documents or policies accordingly.
Equine businesses have every incentive to ask all visitors of legal age who enter the property to sign their waiver/release form. Even if visitors have no intention of riding a horse, they are always at risk of being injured. Years ago, for example, this author shared a lawsuit involving a grandfather who was injured in the barn aisle while waiting for his granddaughter to finish her riding lesson. The stable never asked him to sign its release, but it could have.Click here to read the complete article