Every business in Minnesota that relies on liability waivers (this means you alarm companies!) needs to know that a proposed law is working its way through the Minnesota legislature to severely curtail the enforceability of such waivers. The proposed law would make liability waivers unenforceable for negligent conduct. Currently the law in Minnesota is that liability waivers are only enforceable for negligent conduct (but not for grossly negligent or willful and wanton conduct). Thus, if the law is passed, liability waivers may not be enforceable AT ALL. Before this law is passed, you need to take action to let your legislators know this law is a bad idea. NOW!
The proposed law in the Minnesota House (HF792) reads: An agreement between parties that purports to release, limit, or waive the liability of one party for damage arising out of the negligent operation, maintenance, or design of that party’s premises is against public policy and void and unenforceable. The agreement is severable from a waiver of liability for injuries resulting from the risk inherent in a particular activity. For purposes of this section, “party” or “parties” includes a person, agent, servant or employee of that party or parties, and includes a minor or another who is authorized to sign or accept the agreement on behalf of the minor. Read the full text of the house version here: HF0792.0
The Minnesota Senate amended the law (SF768) to make liability waivers unenforceable only for serious injuries, 60-day disabilities, or death. Read the Senate version here: MN Leg A-2 Amendment of SF 768 (Passed Out of Senate Judiciary 3-22-13)
Obviously, either version of this law, if passed, will hurt Minnesota businesses that rely on these waivers for protection and certainty when offering high-risk services and products. It will increase the costs of doing business by requiring more insurance coverage. It will also increase litigation. This could ruin many small businesses by subjecting them to costly lawsuits for which they will have no contractual defense.
The next step for this proposed law is a floor debate in both the house and the senate. A small coalition of business is fighting this law, including some in hospitality, recreation, and fitness. This group should include alarm companies. Please reach out to your legislator today. Or, contact me and I can put you in touch with one of the government relations professionals who is leading the fight against this law.