Waivers on Behalf of Children in Tennessee are Ineffective

As parents, when we take our children to the roller rink or jump park, we are often asked to sign a waiver in exchange for their participation. In many states, such a waiver may be enforceable. In Tennessee, however, the recent case of Blackwell v. Sky High Sports Nashville Operations, LLC, reinforced Tennessee’s prohibition against enforcing waivers for minors.

In Blackwell, Jacob Blackwell’s mother took him to a trampoline jump park in Nashville when Jacob was a minor. In order to permit Jacob to jump, Jacob’s mother signed a participation waiver, which attempted to do several things: 1) require any lawsuits to be solely brought in California, 2) waive any claims Jacob may have regarding future injuries, and 3) waive any claims Jacob’s parents may have.

Jacob jumped, he got hurt, and his parents sued in Nashville, Tennessee. In response to the lawsuit, the jump park moved to dismiss and/or transfer the suit to California. The Tennessee Court, however, disagreed. After a lengthy analysis of Tennessee’s law regarding waivers and comparisons to other States, the Court ultimately concluded that the lawsuit would remain in Tennessee and that Jacob’s waiver was ineffective. Thus, Jacob had a right to sue for his injuries. The Court held, “the law in Tennessee states that parents may not bind their minor children to pre-injury waivers of liability, releases, or indemnity agreements[.]”

In reaching this conclusion, the Court looked at Tennessee’s public policy regarding protecting the rights of minors and the fact that the Tennessee legislature has never taken steps, like some other states, to permit such waivers. The Court also reasoned that the public policy argument that youth recreational activities would disappear was not persuasive as Tennessee and other states in line with Tennessee have thriving recreation industries. In other words, the Court didn’t see any reason to change the status quo.