Personal Injury Update – Feb 15, 2010

Liability Waivers & Children


All parents are familiar with liability waivers which must be signed before children are allowed to participate in extra-curricular activities. These waivers commonly release service providers from any liability, whether caused by their negligence or not.  Refuse to sign the waiver and your child will be barred from participating in the activity.

A recent court decision has held that these waivers are invalid and unenforceable.


In the case of Wong v. Lok’s, a child was registered for martial arts lessons.  While sparring he was thrown and was injured.  His parents sued the martial arts centre on his behalf for negligence.  The defendant applied to have the case dismissed without a trial on the basis of the liability waiver signed by the parents.

The Law (in General)

No one, including the child, parent or lawyer can settle a child’s case without following proper procedure, which in most cases requires the approval of a judge.

Contracts with children are enforceable against the child only if the contract is for necessary goods and services.  So legally, adults cannot enforce contracts against children which are not in the child’s best interests.  A liability waiver has no benefit to the child and can only work against the child. 

The Decision

The judge found that parents do not have the legal right to waive claims on behalf of children.

Liability waivers are non-binding and unenforceable.   Their primary effect is to:

  • “deceive” parents in to believing that they have no legal right to pursue claims;
  • convince parents that to commence a claim would be risky and expose them to legal costs; and
  • children should not be bound by their parent’s naivete;


The true purpose of “the fine print” is to advise participants of risks inherent in various activities.  If the risks are disclosed accurately and completely, defendants could still rely upon “voluntary assumption of risk”.