Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton Signs Bill Governing Liability Waivers

By Ben Johnson and Veena A. Iyer, Nilan Johnson Lewis PA

On May 24, 2013, Governor Mark Dayton signed a bill into law governing liability waivers in Minnesota, which essentially codifies the existing common law in Minnesota.  As such, waivers will remain valid and enforceable in Minnesota under many circumstances.  

Under Minnesota common law, liability waivers are unenforceable if they purport to release a defendant from liability for intentional, willful or wanton acts.  The new law codifies the existing common law by prohibiting liability waivers that are aimed at conduct that involves “greater than ordinary negligence,” which is synonymous with willful or wanton acts.  Importantly, the new law also provides that unenforceable portions of liability waivers are severable from those portions of agreements seeking to waive only liability for ordinary negligence.  Accordingly, a liability waiver that may be written too broadly is not necessarily void so long as portions of it remain enforceable.  Finally, the new law also broadly defines who is a “party” to a liability waiver, and includes agents of a party, minors, and those authorized to sign an agreement on behalf of a minor.

 

For nonprofit organizations, this means that your organizations can continue to have participants and volunteers sign liability waivers, but both before and after this legislation was enacted, those waivers cannot waive liability for intentional, willful, or wanton acts.  

 
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