Election Section

Parents can’t waive liability for child, Colorado court finds in skiing accident case

Thursday June 27, 2002

DENVER — Parents of minors have no right to sign liability waivers for their children, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled, clearing the way for children to sue ski resorts for negligence once they turn 18. 

In a case that could affect the state’s entire recreation industry, the court said its Monday ruling was based a 1978 law and other statutes that give broad rights to children to file lawsuits once they reach majority age. 

The justices overturned a lower-court ruling that would have barred lawsuits if a parent had signed a form acknowledging a sport’s risk and waiving the right to sue in case of an accident. 

“If this had been affirmed, the doors to the courthouse would be locked,” said attorney Jim Chalat, who specializes in recreation accident cases. 

“This will make skiing and all other sports in Colorado safer for children. It doesn’t mean large awards,” he said, noting that such negligence lawsuits are rare. 

The Aspen Skiing Co., a defendant in the case, did not return a call seeking comment. 

The decision stems from the case of David Cooper, who was 17 when he was training on a ski race course and crashed into a tree, suffering injuries including blindness 

Both he and his mother had signed a release. The trial court found that his mother’s signature bound him to the terms of the agreement, barring his claims against defendants that also included the Aspen Valley Ski Club and the U.S. Ski Association. 

The Court of Appeals affirmed the ruling. 

The state Supreme Court said Colorado law affords minors significant protections that preclude a parent or guardian from releasing a minor’s own claims for negligence. 

While the case involved a ski company, attorneys said it would also apply to horseback riding, rafting, mountain climbing and any other sport involving children. 


On the Net: 

Supreme Court: http://www.courts.state.co.us/supct/supct.htm 

Aspen Skiing Co.: http://www.skiaspen.com