Assuming You Assumed the Risk
It’s summer, and the Vacation Bible Schools are humming. You’ve got your curriculum picked and the songs about Jesus ready to be enjoyed by all ages. You sent out the sign-up sheet and on it you had a release form waiving all liability thereby giving you the ability to focus on preaching the Word and having fun.
Or maybe you enrolled your child in a summer camp, and the house is blissfully quiet. But you’re having a hard time relaxing because you signed a release form, and you’re concerned about what may happen if your child gets hurt.
Almost everyone has come across a release form asking the signer to not sue the provider if the signer is harmed by the provider. This type of form is called an assumption of risk form and is predominantly used by people or organizations providing an activity to others. The idea of the form is that the signer knows that the activity comes with risk and accepts responsibility for any injury that may occur from partaking in the activity.
While a well-written assumption of risk form will protect churches offering events, such as a Vacation Bible School, it is not full proof. Courts frown upon assumption of risk forms because it is against public policy to attempt to avoid liability. In other words, courts fear that providers will become careless and sloppy if they cannot be held accountable. Because of this, courts will narrow release forms as much as possible to ensure accountability.
Therefore, if your church is offering a summer activity, we recommend churches view release forms as a document that puts families on notice of an activity and the inherent risk. Do not neglect your policies and procedures or rules of the activity that your church put in place to keep people safe. Likewise, if you are sending your child to a summer camp, ensure that adequate measures are being taken to protect your child so that you may rest somewhat easier while he or she is away.
As always, feel free to contact your UISBC Legal Team if you want us to review a release form or help create one for your church event.