Everyone wants to have fun. But sometimes, fun places like trampoline parks, amusement parks, and even TopGolf will argue that you can’t sue them because you signed or agreed to a waiver in some form or another.
What does Georgia law say about this? Is it possible for a property owner to wiggle out of being sued just because a customer signed a waiver? It depends on the specific language in the waiver and the specific facts surrounding the customer’s injury.
As a general rule, business owners (including the people who run entertainment businesses) are responsible for keeping paying customers safe by exercising “reasonable care.” Every time a court determines what counts as “reasonable care,” they consider the obvious risks involved in the activity. For instance, the law would say, in most cases, two kids bouncing into each other and hitting their heads at a trampoline park (without the park owner doing anything to allow or encourage it to happen) is something most people know could happen when they take their children to a trampoline park. However, the law would create a different conclusion if a child stepped onto a trampoline that looked perfectly fine but collapsed when they stepped on it for the first time.
Owners of these types of places are allowed to ask for waivers, but they can’t sign away all responsibility just by doing so. Waivers are allowed to benefit property owners when they could be sued for simple negligence. However, a property owner can’t just sign away his responsibility in situations where he’s been grossly negligent. What is “gross negligence?” Georgia law defines it as the absence of slight diligence. Slight diligence is the care “which every man of common sense, however inattentive he may be, exercises under the same or similar circumstances.” In other words, when someone does something that defies common sense under any circumstance, that person has been grossly negligent. Georgia law also defines gross negligence as “a severe degree of negligence taken as reckless disregard.” Basically, a property owner still can’t be reckless or completely disregard safety hazards just because they make their customers sign a waiver.
Another situation where waivers do not protect a property owner is when the waiver itself violates public policy. This means, where the activity is illegal or immoral, or if it would be illegal or immoral to hold a customer to a waiver agreement because they gave so little in return for their signature, the waiver is completely invalid from the start.
Whenever someone gets hurt on a property after signing a waiver, the property owner and their insurance company are going to point to that waiver to tell the injured person they have no right to sue. However, liability waivers are interpreted narrowly, meaning they only protect the property owner from injuries arising from activities specifically discussed in the waiver. For example, if a waiver says a trampoline park owner can’t be held responsible for injuries sustained while jumping on the trampolines, that makes no difference as to whether a customer can sue after falling on something slippery by the snack bar.
To sum it up, customers can still sue business owners even when they’ve signed a waiver to use the business. However, it does create a more difficult task, because the customer will have to show: (1) the owner was grossly negligent, (2) the waiver is against public policy, or (3) the injury occurred when something not listed in the waiver was happening.
Because of the tough legal battle ahead, people who have been injured on someone’s property after signing a waiver need skilled legal representation. Rafi Law Firm has won clients millions of dollars due to the negligence of property owners. Contact us to hear how we can help you navigate a difficult personal and legal situation with precision and compassion to get the compensation you need.