Written by attorney Lisa Ann Laurene Lerch

California equine liability releases.

I run a riding school and was wondering if I should have the child as well as the parent sign the liability release?

Children under the age of 18 are usually not legally able to enter into a contract. A liability release is essentially just that, a contract or a promise not to sue.

If a release agreement is only signed by the child, without an additional parent signature, the child could disaffirm the release and sue you and your riding school if he/she were to sustain injuries. However, when a valid liability release is signed by a parent on behalf of the child, California courts have held that it is binding on the child. I know of many instances where riding schools have been lax on the paperwork and have had the child sign with the intention of having the parent sign later. Often "later" never happens and the school is vulnerable to a lawsuit every time that child rides. It is important to make sure the parent signs and waives both their right to sue and their child's right to sue.

Now that we know who needs to sign it, what makes a valid liability release?

California courts have held that a liability release is not enforceable if it is not easily readable. Typically, anything smaller than 8 pt. is unsatisfactory and may not be enforceable. In addition, the courts want to see the important language of the release placed in a position which requires notice. A liability release cannot blend in with the rest of the document. Whenever you are asking someone to give up his or her legal rights, the language must be clear, concise and easily readable. The release must also clearly convey what it is the signer is releasing. Typically, that means any personal injuries caused by the releasor's negligence.

More often than not riding schools try to cram their entire contract, including the liability release onto one or two pages in an effort to keep the paperwork to a minimum. This is not a good rule of thumb. If your release is not sufficient then it will be invalidated in a legal proceeding. The time to find out if your release is in compliance with California law is not during a court case.

If you have further questions regarding this issue, please feel free to contact our office for further information.

This article is meant to provide general information only and is not intended to constitute legal advice. The information in this article is not intended to establish an attorney-client relationship between attorney and reader. The contents of this article are not a substitute for seeking the advice of legal counsel.

Copyright 2008. Legal Equestrian, a Professional Law Corporation All rights reserved.

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