Are Liability Waivers Enforceable in California?

Thanks to its many attractions and generally pleasant year-round weather, Los Angeles and its surrounding areas are often beacons for people looking for excitement and adventure. Those adventures may come by way of an attraction or activity provider, who will often require you and/or your family members to sign a liability waiver before participating. The purpose of such waivers is not very difficult to comprehend; they explain that you assume the risks that are inherent with the activity or attraction. The real question should be whether or not they are actually enforceable. 

The answer to that question is both yes and no. In situations where a waiver shifts the liability for ordinary negligence to you, then the law does view them as being enforceable. However, according to Section 1668 of the California Civil Code, contracts whose purpose is to exempt one from his or her own negligent actions (whether willful or not) are against the law. Thus, in situations where a party displays gross negligence to you and other participants of an activity which it sponsors, it can still be held liable even if you signed a waiver. 

What is gross negligence? It may be defined as a departure from the care a reasonable person would have demonstrated in order to ensure the safety of others. An example might be an amusement park operator that fails to perform proper maintenance on its attractions. 

Another limitation of liability waivers has to do with language. In order to be enforceable, they must not include any generalizations or vagaries, but rather spell out in clear detail what they cover. Such language not only offers certain protections to activity providers but also highlights scenarios where you could pursue a claim not covered under the waiver’s purview.

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