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New Minnesota Law Voids Some,
But Not All, Waivers
By Alexander “Sandie” Pendleton 

An attempt by a group of Minnesota legislators to amend Minnesota law so as to void all waiver agreements has failed.  Instead, the legislature adopted a bill that provides that any agreement between parties for a “consumer service” (including a recreational activity), that purports to release liability resulting from conduct that constitutes “greater than ordinary negligence,” is against public policy, and is therefore void and unenforceable. 

Generally, it appears that this new law does little more than codify the current state of the common law in Minnesota, and therefore does not appear to be significantly detrimental to the interests of recreational-opportunity providers. 

The law may in fact be beneficial to Minnesota providers.  The law makes clear that if the waiver in question seeks to release claims for “greater than ordinary negligence,” that portion is severable from the remainder of the waiver agreement.  (In contrast, the common law in Wisconsin, as developed by the Wisconsin courts, provides that any attempt to release “all claims,” is overbroad and not severable from the remainder of the release, and thus voids the entire waiver agreement.) 

The new law also expressly includes minors in the definition of “parties” involved with waivers, and thus may provide an argument to providers that the legislature had the opportunity to void all waivers-that-relate-to-minors, and decided to forgo that opportunity, and go instead in the opposite direction.  The new law also indicates that a party may waive claims that are “inherent in a particular activity.”   

The new law was signed into law by Governor Dayton on May 24th, and goes into effect on August 1, 2013.   

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© 2013 Pendleton Legal, S.C.

250 E. Wisconsin Ave. Suite 1800  Milwaukee, WI 53202  |  Telephone: 414.418.4469  |  Email: pendleton@pendletonlegal.com

 

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