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Position Paper: Liability Waivers & Template

We are often asked about the worthiness of using liability waivers by our clients. In the past, under the advice of legal counsel, we have taken a somewhat ambivalent attitude toward encouraging our clients to have their members sign waivers or requiring that non-members participating in chapter events sign waivers as we were concerned that the waivers wouldn’t stand up in court.

However, over the past several years, there has been a shift in case law that has caused us to reconsider our position on waivers and releases. This, coupled with the dramatic increase in liability incidents and claims among our clients, has caused us to re-evaluate our position. Our research and the advice of legal counsel now indicates that participant waivers/releases may be advantageous for our clients in two ways prior even to the test of court:

  1. Waivers may help clients educate their members about the risks associated with various types of events; and
  2. Waivers may prevent a lawsuit from ever being filed because the participant has acknowledged his or her assumption of risk.

We are now encouraging our clients to utilize participant waivers (both for their own members and for events sponsored by the Fraternity/Sorority with non-member participants) for the following types of events:

  • Any athletic event
  • Any “risky” event (Link to risky events position paper)
  • Any competition

We have developed a participant waiver/release template for our clients’ use. Please be sure to read through the waiver in its entirety and make necessary edits so that the waiver applies to your specific event. You will see examples and further information in the footnotes of the waiver/release template.

Once the appropriate waiver has been drafted by included the requested information in the template form, waivers may be distributed in paper or electronic format. If distributed and collected as hard – copies, chapters should either keep the paper copies or scan and save as an electronic file in accordance with your organization’s document retention policy. It’s important that chapters not go to all of the effort of collecting signed waivers to simply dispose of them the day after the event as claims often come much later than that.

A potentially better option is to use a web-based liability waiver platform that will help your chapters create and distribute waivers to participants and then save signed waivers in a searchable database. There are a few websites that offer this. One such company that we recommend is SmartWaiver as we believe that the waiver creation and distribution process is relatively seamless and pricing is reasonable and upfront.

For additional information, please refer to the article published in Fraternal Law (link). Should you have any questions or concerns, please contact Estacia Brandenburg, JD, MJ Sorority Client Executive.