Signing waivers for kids' classes

Parent Q&A

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  • Some camp waivers are more onerous than others, and I'm perturbed by the one I'm now being forced to sign in order to complete enrollment. This camp is run by US Sports Camp and takes place at Cal Berkeley. Sample language includes releasing Cal from any and all claims "including the negligence of the Regents of UC, its officers, employees and agents...That I will indemnify and hold them harmless, including for such negligence", and to "reimburse them for any [legal] expenses incurred [even in such cases]." That we "give up substantial rights, including my right to sue." This is in addition to the unlimited right to use all images, and waiving all claims "for invasion of privacy, defamation, or infringement of copyright." 

    I'm annoyed that we families pay a small fortune to send our kids to camp, in this case at a large, well-funded facility that is subsidized by our tax dollars, and yet are expected to waive all reasonable rights. As it is, we didn't enroll in any sleep-away camps, though our son really wanted to go, due to the possibility of a positive Covid test during required, frequent, *asymptomatic* blanket Covid testing (which not all scientists and doctors agree is necessary, even now), and then being dis-enrolled (without refund of course, and camp insurance doesn't cover this scenario). I can be sympathetic toward the latter scenario, though it's not found as frequently, if at all, outside of CA, but want a society with a more fair balance of power between the customer and large institution (family vs Cal, in this case). A similar tangent - I recently had surgery and the facility tried to force me to sign a broad arbitration agreement that was heavily skewed towards the facility in all ways, including to cover their possible failure for basic care. I refused to sign, especially after reading horror stories about Surgery Center negligence, but had to jump through logistical hoops to get the surgery done anyway, which fortunately went without incident. It's not that I expect the camp or surgery to result in disaster, but I'm upset that we pay a lot for services, yet these facilities try to force us to waive reasonable rights and feel or be powerless. Some of the terms may not be enforceable, but it's irksome that they exist at all. How can we shift the balance? 

    I agree with you! This is the same reason we looked into and decided not to sign up for class at Bladium and several years later, my kid doesn’t play soccer because they never got a chance to do so. I spoke with a friend who is a person injury lawyer about Bladium’s waivers and she said that  despite the waiver, if there is gross negligence, we would be able to sue. But if it is determined to be simple negligence or less, the waiver would hold. We would also be held to the reasonable person standards and we are presumed to know and accept risks when participating in a high risk activity such as soccer which is known to cause concoctions and other injuries. Seriously, if we read these documents we sign to sign up for things carefully, we would never be able to participate in anything! My friend’s advice at that time was “how bad do you want your kid to play soccer? You sign this and move on or you don’t. If something horrific happens at the fault of Bladium, you will be able to sue them. But, at that point, your legal right to sue did nothing to prevent the tragedy. So, the question whether you have checked with them and trust that the facility is taking all measure to be responsible and to ensure kids’ health and safety. Instead of asking about changing the waiver, maybe ask to find out more about their protocols and procedures?” The waiver left such a bad taste that we never joined and our kid doesn’t play soccer which is fine. We are not sports enthusiasts and can lead a happy life without soccer.  By the way, arbitration isn’t necessarily a bad thing if it’s local.  And knowing the kinds of clients that my PI lawyer friend have (catastrophic accidents from trains, bus, car, while biking, walking, riding amusement park type rides), sometimes I wonder how she lets kids go out and enjoy life.

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Gymnastics class requires waiver

Oct 2001

I have a three year old who is at the Harold Jones Center. I love the center, its staff and activities, but have a question they are unable to help with, and which is not just specific to that program. In order for my daughter to participate in the Cal Bears Gymnastics part of the program, I was told I need to sign a waiver which was attached to the registration form. In it, one waives all rights and assumes all risks, even in cases of negligence on their part. The waiver includes assumption of risks, a number of other things, and an acknowledgement of understanding, saying you know you are giving up substantial rights. When I received a similar waiver for another class she takes, I crossed out the parts I did not agree with, but Cal Bears told me I cannot do that. It seems everyone is signing away these rights, all over the place. Does anyone know of a way out of this? I don't want her to be unable to participate in things, and I understand the University's desire to protect itself from unnecessary litigation, but I find it offensive that the University would basically say that even if they are at fault, I would not be able to seek redress in a case where I or my insurance could not financially cover the results of their actions. How do you handle these things? Charlotte

The waiver is standard practice; in fact, as your child enters more and more activities, you will find yourself in waiver-land: school field trips, camps, after-school programs, swimming lessons, name it and there's a waiver very similar if not identical to the one you're signing for Harold E. Jones. Responsible organizations must take steps to protect their assets and to identify and make known areas of potential risk: the van that will transport your child to and from the gym, the gym equipment.... You as a parent have the responsibility to understand the risk to your child and if you wish her to participate, recognize your role in assuming risk. You aren't signing away your rights--if there is negligence on the part of the organization you have the right to take action--but you are acknowledging that you understand and assume risk. All activity carries an inherent risk and organizations have a responsibility to inform you of that risk and to know that you understand and assume that risk to your child by signing the waiver--you are providing informed consent. Can you still sue if something horrible happens? Of course. But without a complete and unadulterated waiver on file, your child will not be able to participate. If you're a UC employee, you might want to contact the risk management department on campus (in the business and finance unit) to get more information.

By the time your child gets to high school you will have signed a million of these. Swimming class, ice skating, summer camp, field trip, gym, martial arts, you name it.