Is Connecticut’s Public Policy of Voiding Liability Waivers Misplaced?

Legal Issues in High School Athletics recently featured my article concerning Furlani v. Town of East Lyme, a lawsuit arising from the injury of an East Lyme (Conn.) high school track athlete.  In that case, a Connecticut Superior Court found a waiver, signed by the plaintiff’s parent, invalid with respect to the student athlete’s personal injury claim against town and school officials.

The rationale for the court’s decision in Furlani v. Town of East Lyme was rooted in the policy adopted by the Connecticut Supreme Court.  In fact, the Connecticut Supreme Court has consistently held that there is an important public policy in promoting participation in recreational and athletic activities, which “constitute an important and healthy part of everyday life.”  Hanks v. Powder Ridge Restaurant Corp., 276 Conn. 314 (2005).  In so holding, the Court has voided exculpatory agreements in connection with snow tubing and horseback riding.  See Hanks v. Powder Ridge Restaurant Corp. and Reardon v. Windswept Farm, LLC, 280 Conn. 153 (2006)In addition, a Superior Court voided such an agreement between a health club and its memberSchneeloch v. Glastonbury Fitness & Wellness, Inc., 2009 WL 416645 (Conn. Super. Ct. Feb. 2, 2009). 

But does the Court accomplish its public policy of promoting participation in athletic and recreational activities by refusing to enforce liability waivers.  A Connecticut Sports Law reader, who also happens to be an attorney, thinks not:

I agree with the public policy [of promoting athletics and recreation] but would reach the exact opposite conclusion – liability interferes with the promotion of recreational activities.  The school will have less activities if it gets sued over them.  Does somebody on the Court think that parents or kids are avoiding athletics because they’re concerned that they won’t recover if they sue the school down the road?  Nobody who has every played a sport in their life could take that position seriously.

This argument has merit.  Does the Court’s policy limit opportunities for athletic activity?  Or does the policy ensure that schools and other providers of athletic activity take all steps to ensure participant safety, knowing that any liability waivers are unlikely to be enforced?

What do you think?

 

Comments

  1. Hi,
    I’m a keen sportsfan myself and am really glad i can get sport on ctsportslaw.com.
    Thank you for your time to write this,
    BR,
    Muscolino

Trackbacks

  1. […] There are a number of sports law lessons that can be derived from this case, including the issue of high schools providing proper practice facilities and the enforceability of waivers in Connecticut. […]

  2. […] Is Connecticut’s Public Policy of Voiding Liability Waivers Misplaced? […]

  3. […] liability to camp attendees must be considered, and addressed by way of a liability waiver.  Liability waivers, especially those that deal with sports and fitness, can be difficult to enforce i….  Nevertheless, they are effective tools to prevent lawsuits and negotiate early settlements, if […]

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