Liability Release Dismisses Wrongful Death Lawsuit Involving California Teenager
As this blog has reported in the past, courts nationwide have disagreed as to whether parents can legally release away personal injury claims of their minor children.
In a decision issued earlier this year, a California appellate court found that a horse trainer/riding instructor's release of liability, signed by a mother as well as her teenage daughter, was enforceable. Accordingly, the court held that a lawsuit against the trainer (who was also referred to as a "coach") arising from the teenager's death, was properly dismissed.
The teenager at issue in the lawsuit was a highly experienced rider who was competing in a three-day eventing competition in California. Minutes before the fatal incident occurred, the teenager, who rode her own horse in the cross-country portion, had been excused due to her horse refusing too many jumps. In an apparent effort to school her horse before leaving the course, however, she steered her horse toward another jump. The horse fell over on her, and she later died.
The parents sued the “coach,” but they lost at trial. The parents then appealed to the California Court of Appeals. At issue was whether the release barred the litigation. The Court found that it did. It also ruled that the claims of "gross negligence," which could potentially override the release, were likewise dismissed because of insufficient evidence.
The case was Eriksson v. Nunnink, 233 Cal. App. 4th 708 (Cal. App. 1/27/2015).
This blog post does not constitute legal advice. Please keep in mind that states differ in their enforcement of liability waivers and releases. Even in states with a history of enforcing these documents, there is never a guarantee that all releases will be enforced. For your protection, discuss your documents with a lawyer, and secure proper liability insurance.
Julie Fershtman is considered to be one of the nation's leading attorneys in the field of equine law. A frequent author and speaker on legal issues, she has written over 400 published articles, three books, and has lectured at seminars, conventions, and conferences in 29 states on issues involving law, liability, risk management, and insurance. For more information, please also visit www.fershtmanlaw.com and www.equinelaw.net, and www.equinelaw.info.View All Posts by Author ›
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