No doubt, you have participated in an activity where the business has asked you to sign a waiver. Everything from gyms, trampoline parks, amusement parks, to seasonal activities like hayrides at the local pumpkin patch will have you sign a waiver before you or your children can participate. But are these waivers enforceable?
The answer to this question will vary from state to state, but Missouri law disfavors waivers of liability. The courts are reluctant to let a wrongdoer shift the risk of negligent conduct and place it on the injured victim. The burden to prove a waiver is valid will be on the business claiming the benefit of the waiver. But the courts will enforce a waiver if a business can show it meets certain requirements. Specifically, the courts will look to see:
- If the waiver uses clear, unambiguous language of the intent to release claims of negligence, and
- Whether the language is conspicuous and easily recognizable.
Within this framework, Missouri courts have struck down waivers that use broad, generic language like an injured patron is releasing “any and all claims of liability.” Courts have also rejected waivers where the language is in small font buried on the back of a form. In addition, a court will strike down any waiver that appears to release a business from intentional or reckless conduct.
Ultimately, whether a waiver is enforceable will be determined based on the particular facts of each case. If you or a family member are injured in an activity after you have signed a waiver, then you should contact an attorney to determine your ability to pursue a claim.