Child Safety Law Takes Effect July 1

New Law Strikes Compromise to Allow Child Liability Waivers

Representatives of Florida businesses, consumer groups and child-safety advocates struck a major compromise this year in crafting a law concerning child liability waivers that takes effect July 1.

Florida Justice Association leaders hailed the measure, which Governor Charlie Crist signed into law on April 27, as a monumental achievement for children’s safety.

“This law is a victory for all Floridians because it protects the health and safety of Florida’s children while shielding businesses from frivolous lawsuits,” said Michael Haggard, President of the Florida Justice Association. “This compromise strikes a fair balance for consumers and business.”

Crafted as Senate Bill 2440 during the 2010 Florida Legislative Session, the law allows businesses to offer child liability waivers that protect against inherent risk only.

Under the law, businesses that offer activities to children can ask parents to sign child liability waivers.  Businesses would be immune from lawsuits involving the inherent risk of an activity. Inherent risk means a risk related to the nature of that activity, such as falling off a horse while horseback riding or spraining an ankle while roller skating.

Parents will still be able to hold entities accountable for injuries or deaths caused by negligence. Factors such as poor employee training, inadequate safety measures, badly maintained or poorly designed equipment can be considered negligence if they cause injuries or child deaths.

The law is a legislative response to a 2008 Florida Supreme Court decision in the Kirton v. Fields case in which the Court determined that child liability waivers are invalid because they can rob a child of basic legal rights. The case involved the tragic 2003 death of a 14-year-old boy, Christopher Jones of Okeechobee, who was killed at a motor sports park after an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) landed on top of him.