Spring Break Activities: Are Statements Limiting Liability Valid?

In the News

Skiing, amusement parks, tubing … plenty of you will spend spring break having fun with your kids. Before you take part in any of these activities, however, you may be asked to sign a statement limiting liability. 

The limitation of liability is often presented as a warning: “We are not responsible for any injury, theft or other damage that may occur when using our facilities.” You’re sometimes asked to sign to show that you agree.  However, this type of warning is generally not legally valid. 

The company wants to limit their liability 

In legal jargon, this warning is called a “limitation or exclusion of responsibility clause.” The clause can be found on a poster, a document, a website or a screen that you are asked to sign before starting an activity. The clause is sometimes hidden in the fine print.  

A company may ask you to consent to a limitation of liability clause that applies to physical damage (e.g. injury) or material damage (e.g. equipment breakdown, theft). 

An invalid clause 

Whether the text is prominently displayed, or you have signed in agreement, such clauses are invalid. In principle, ski resorts, amusement parks and the like cannot exclude or limit their liability in advance. You could therefore be entitled to compensation if you get injured, even if you signed a document containing a similar clause. The same goes for property damage.  

However, if you are sued, the judge will need to determine whether the harm was due to your fault or that of the company. A judge could, for example, find that you didn’t follow the safety instructions properly.