Parents Cannot Waive Children’s Right to Sue for Negligence

by John McKiggan

Parental Waivers Not Worth the Paper They Are Printed On?

In what appears to be the first ruling of its kind in Canada, the British Columbia Supreme Court has ruled that parents cannot waive their children’s rights to sue for negligence when the child is injured as a result of participating in recreational or sports activities.

In Wong v. Lock’s Martial Arts Centre Inc, Justice Willcock held that British Columbia’s Infants Act:

“Does not permit a parent or guardian to bind an infant to an agreement waiving the infant’s right to bring an action in damages in tort”

The plaintiff, Victor Wong was 16 years old when he broke his arm participating in a martial arts sparing match organized by the defendant martial arts club.

Parent Waivers are Commonplace

Any parent who has had a child participate in minor hockey, basketball, football, martial arts, gymnastics and so on has probably signed a parental waiver. Typically the waivers are broadly worded and release the defendants from any cause of action whatsoever.

Recreational and Sports Organizations Will Have to Be Careful

I am not aware of any equivalent case law in Nova Scotia and this case appears to be the first of its kind in Canada. What it means for the future is that organizations that hold recreational or sports activities will need to be more vigilant to ensure that they are not negligent in the way they organize their activities.

What do you think? Have you ever signed one of those waivers? Ever read it? Perhaps you should next time.

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