Lawyer explains new school sports waiver that mentions COVID-19

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ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. – While we don’t yet know what sports is going to look like with schools this fall, parents are starting to receive waivers they’ll have to sign when it does happen.

Some parents have reached out to Fox 2, saying they’re unnerved by what it says.

School sports have always demanded parents sign waivers of liability for injuries or death. But recent waivers hit many parents harder because they included language about COVID-19.

FOX 2 News asked attorney Gary Burger to explain what it really means.

“Waivers are in our society everywhere,” he said. “When you go to the gym or you take your kid to a party.”

Burger described the latest waivers with the language about COVID-19 as a good thing.

“It’s not just self-serving. The one thing I liked about it, it has parents agree – and has kind of a written contract, not just a social contract in these COVID times – don’t bring your kid to school or don’t bring your kid to practice with COVID. So that is the lesson,” he said.

“If I have children and they do sports, I don’t want another parent bringing another child who has a fever or who is actively contagious with COVID to get the whole team sick. And we see stories about that now. So that brings that home and teaches that to parents.”

There was so much confusion and fear last week that the Hazelwood School District released a statement of facts about the latest athletic waiver, saying in part, “…school districts can only mitigate the risk of COVID-19. No district, organization, or business can offer 100 percent protection against exposure to a global pandemic.”

Hazelwood is beginning its semester online only, so it could be awhile before waivers will be due. But Burger says you do have to sign it.

“You don’t have a choice,” he said. “They’re not going to let your child do the sport without signing the waiver.”

Burger also discussed why it doesn’t completely eliminate your right to sue in certain circumstances.

He explained that a school or business has to have retained the signed waiver to make it effective and that the person who signed it has to be authorized to do so for a minor.

Burger says there has to be a meeting of the minds on the waiver like any type of contract. A waiver for minor injuries may not include waiving a death claim or a claim for fraud or consumer rights violations. He recommends looking at the waiver language to make sure both parties agreed to waive the kind of claim that happened.

“We, unfortunately, read about sexual predators in schools or around children – an injury waiver would not release that type of claim,” he said. “Also remember that the waiver only protects the business or school that authored it. It does not prohibit a product liability claims for a dangerous or defective product or piece of equipment or a different person or business coming onto the property and causing an injury.”

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