Several years ago, I signed a form allowing my son to go to a local business called "Jumpology" with some of his friends and jump around like a crazy person. Here I am, a personal injury attorney, signing this form and quickly sending him on his way. I've never seen Jumpology. I've only heard about it. But signing this form made me very uneasy, especially because of its wording.
This form (some of you may have read it and I am sure some of you have signed it) purports to release Jumpology from basically everything under the sun, including Jumpology's own "negligent acts and/or omissions" and any "personal injury" or "death" that might result from Jumpology's own bad conduct. Really? You mean, this company can do something "negligent" resulting in the "death" of a child and avoid responsibility simply because a parent signed this form? What if the company left a tripping hazard in the middle of the floor? What if it left broken glass on a mat? Still no liability? I find that hard to believe.
Although Jumpology's form is very clear, I personally do not believe it would hold up in court. At least not here in Virginia. For at least 100 years, the Supreme Court of Virginia has refused to enforce pre-injury "releases" or "waivers" of liability that purport to release a company from liability for hurting another person. Such forms and contracts are considered to violate public policy. Another issue is that children, particularly those under the age of 16 in Virginia, are not held to as high of a "standard of care" as adults. In non-lawyer talk, it is difficult to argue in Virginia that a child was "negligent" in causing his or her own injury. So even if a child was at a facility like Jumpology and was himself acting "negligently", that negligence would likely not cancel out Jumpology's own negligence.
It is important to note, however, that the law on pre-injury releases is different in other states. Just across the state line in Maryland, for example, the general rule is that pre-injury releases are enforceable. Although there are some exceptions to that rule, the Maryland Court of Appeals made clear in a 2013 case that a parent can waive their child’s legal claims for negligently-caused injuries by signing a pre-injury release on their child’s behalf.