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New Florida Case on Waiver of Liability Forms

If you read our recent blog on liability waivers for children, then you know liability waivers may not always be enforceable.  In a recent case, Peterson v. Flare Fittings, Inc., the Fifth District Court of Appeal reminds us that waiver of liability forms are disfavored in the law and will be strictly construed against the party seeking to be relieved of liability.  

In that case, the plaintiff, Owen Peterson, attended a paintball event and tournament at a Disney-owned property, the Wide World of Sports Complex.  Two days before the tournament began, while walking through a vendor area, Peterson was injured by a vendor’s balloon.  He sought medical treatment at a hospital, but the x-ray results were negative and he was discharged with prescribed muscle relaxants and pain relievers.  Two days later, when he returned to compete in the tournament, he was required to sign a waiver which clearly addressed his participation in the competition.  

Peterson later sued Disney and several other defendants for his injuries caused by the balloon.  Disney denied liability and argued that it was entitled to summary judgment as a result of the waiver Peterson signed.  In reversing the trial court’s entry of summary judgment in favor of Disney, the Fifth District Court of Appeal noted that clauses that attempt to waive liability are disfavored in the law and are to be narrowly enforced.  The court rejected Disney’s argument that the waiver’s reference to injuries that were suffered before, during or after participation included the incident in the vendor area two days before the tournament.  The court pointed out that the waiver “clearly focused on the … paintball competition, not the vendor area,” and “failed to clarify that it included any incident that occurred before its signing.”

The takeaway here is that you should never assume the liability waiver you signed is enforceable.  Talk to an attorney who can determine whether any rights were waived and to what extent you may be able to recover damages for yourself or a loved one.  


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