Michigan Has a Major Minor’s Problem

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The Supreme Court of Michigan recently confirmed that waiver and release documents signed by parents on behalf of their children are unenforceable in that state.  In Woodman v. Kera (2010) 2010 WL 2471902, a five year old boy was injured during his birthday party, which was being held at an indoor facility containing inflatable play equipment.  Prior to his injury, the boy’s father signed a liability waiver on his son’s behalf.  After the trial court level enforced the waiver as to some of the plaintiffs’ claims, the Court of Appeal reversed, holding that the waiver and release document could not be enforced pursuant to longstanding Michigan common law, which does not allow parents to waive or release prospective claims on behalf of their children.  The Supreme Court affirmed the appellate court’s ruling on similar grounds.

Of note is the lengthy “dissenting” opinion submitted by Justice Stephen Markman.  Justice Markman concurred with the majority opinion and took the position that the waiver should not be enforced under the circumstances, but only because he believed that the language of the waiver was deficient.  Justice Markman opined that Michigan’s common law did not preclude the Supreme Court from enforcing the waiver.  In fact, it appears that if Justice Markman had authored the majority opinion, the waiver would have been enforced.

Note:   This decision is significant in that it confirms that minor’s waiver documents cannot be enforced in Michigan.

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