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Companies can be liable for injured children even if parents sign waiver, Florida Supreme Court rules

Amusement parks, festivals, daycare centers and other companies and businesses can be held responsible for injuries to children even if the parents sign a waiver, according to a recent ruling by the Florida Supreme Court.

The December 2008 ruling makes clear that such waivers are unenforceable if a lawsuit is brought seeking damages in Florida because of the injury or wrongful death of a child caused on commercial property.

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Florida child injury lawyers and property and premise liability attorneys offer Floridians and visitors to the Sunshine State free professional advice to help advise them of their rights if either they or a loved one is injured or killed on someone else’s property.

While the opinion in Kirton v. Fields makes it clear the ruling only involves commercial activities, the court indicated it would not be limited to that in the future and that the ruling could apply to school and other non-profit activities in certain instances.

The ruling stems from a 2003 case in which a father took his 14-year-old son to an ATV park, signed a waiver and then sued after the child was thrown from the vehicle and killed while attempting a jump.

“Business owners owe their patrons a duty of reasonable care and to maintain a safe environment for the activity they provide,” Chief Justice Peggy Quince wrote in the majority opinion. The chief justice noted that businesses can provide insurance against injury while children who participate in such commercial activities do not have that option. “If pre-injury releases were permitted for commercial establishments, the incentive to take reasonable precautions to protect the safety of minor children would be removed.”

Judge Harry Anstead concurred, writing that the issue comes down to whether the business was negligent, regardless of a waiver.

“Under today’s (ruling), commercial operators who properly conduct their operations and cannot be demonstrated to have acted negligently will continue to be free of liability,” Anstead wrote. “On the other hand, Florida’s children and parents need not worry, after today’s decision, that careless commercial operators may be immunized from their carelessness by the presence of an exculpatory clause in a ticket for admission.”

Landlords and businesses have a duty to secure their property and ensure that visitors are not negligently harmed.

If you or someone you love has been seriously injured or killed on someone else’s property, there may be certain things you can do to help protect your rights. The property liability and negligent security attorneys at Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, Personal Injury Lawyers, offer free appointments to discuss your rights at any of the firm’s offices located throughout Southwest Florida, including Fort Myers, Naples, Cape Coral, Arcadia, Port Charlotte, Sebring and Venice.