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Under the common law of the Commonwealth, absent special circumstances, a parent has no authority to enter into contracts on a child's behalf. There is find no relevant public policy to justify abrogating the common law to enforce an exculpatory agreement between a for-profit entity and a parent on behalf of her minor child. The statutes of the General Assembly and decisions of the supreme court reflect no public policy shielding the operators of for-profit trampoline parks from liability.
Kathy Miller purchased tickets for her 11-year old daughter, E.M., and her daughter’s friends to go play at House of Boom, a for-profit trampoline park in Kentucky. Before purchasing the tickets, House of Boom required Kathy to check a box indicating that the latter had read the waiver of liability, which released House of Boom from any liability for any damage, loss, personal injury, or death that may be sustained by the ticket holder as a result of participating in any of the activities in or about the premises. The waiver also indicated that the purchaser waived her or her children’s right to maintain any action against House of Boom. E.M. was injured in the premises of House of Boom. Kathy, as next friend of her daughter, sued House of Boom for the injury. House of Boom, relying on Kathy’s legal power to waive the rights of her daughter via the release, moved for summary judgment. The Western District of Kentucky concluded that House of Boom’s motion for summary judgment involved a novel issue of state law and requested Certification from the State Supreme Court.
Would a parent have the authority to sign a pre-injury exculpatory agreement on behalf of her child, thus terminating the child’s potential right to compensation for an injury occurring while participating in activities sponsored by a for-profit company?
The Court held that a pre-injury liability waiver signed by a parent on behalf of a minor child was unenforceable under the specific facts of the case because under the common law, absent special circumstances, a parent had no authority to enter into contracts on a child's behalf. As litigation restrictions upon parents remained a vital piece of civil practice and procedure, the Supreme Court did not recognize a parent’s fundamental liberty interest to quash their child’s potential tort claim. The Court averred that no public policy existed to support a trampoline park's affordable recreational activities argument in the context of a commercial activity because a commercial entity had the ability to purchase insurance and spread the cost between its customers, and a child had no similar ability to protect himself or herself from the negligence of others within the confines of a commercial establishment.