Waiver of liability forms are becoming more and more common.  We are being asked to sign these forms for a variety of activities.  This includes, sports, volunteer work, even for our children to engage in school or recreational activities.  What you need to know:

Under Louisiana law, depending on the activity, these waiver of liability forms are invalid.  Louisiana Civil Code Article 2004, states “Any clause is null that, in advance, excludes or limits the liability of one party for intentional or gross fault that causes damage to the other party.  Any clause is null that, in advance, excludes or limits the liability of one party causeing physical injury to the other party.”  La. C.C. Art. 2004. 

This means that if the damage is intentional or results from gross negligence, then the waiver is completely invalid.  Also, if a person suffers a physical injury the waiver is invalid, even if it is caused by accident.  Despite these limits, most waiver forms purport to waive all liability.  Why?

There are a number of reasons.  First, even if the form gets one person to believe that they do not have a claim, then it was worth it.  Second, the form can be used to argue that the person who signed the form knew of the risk and assumed that risk by signing the form and participating in the activity.  This will not defeat a claim, but may be used to try to reduce liability and have a percentage of fault assigned to the person who signed the form.

Finally, the waiver form is valid for some claims.  For example, any damage (other than personal injury) resulting from ordinary negligence can be excluded by the waiver form.  This includes, property damage, damage caused by delay, or anything else except physical injuries.  So the forms can be effective.

Legally, a person presented with a waiver of liability form does not have many options if they want to participate in the activity.  However, it is very important to know that these waiver forms are FAR broader than the law actually allows.  So if you find yourself in the unfortunate situation of having suffered an injury of any kind don’t assume that the waiver form prevents you from protecting yourself.  Alway consult an attorney.