Recent Developments

Issues that affect ministers and churches
Release Form Not Enforceable Due to Lack of Clarity
Male severely injured in Habitat for Humanity bike race successfully sues organization for negligent conduct.
Key point 10-16.6. A release form is a document signed by a competent adult that purports to relieve a church from liability for its own negligence. Such forms may be legally enforceable if they are clearly written and identify the conduct that is being released. However, the courts look with disfavor on release forms, and this has led to several limitations, including the following: (1) release forms will be strictly and narrowly construed against the church; (2) release forms cannot relieve a church of liability for injuries to minors, since minors have no legal capacity to sign such forms and their parents' signature does not prevent minors from bringing their own personal injury claim after they reach age 18; (3) some courts refuse to enforce any release form that attempts to avoid liability for personal injuries on the ground that such forms violate public policy; and (4) release forms will not be enforced unless they clearly communicate that they are releasing the church from liability for its negligence.

A Connecticut court ruled that a "release form" signed by a participant in a charity-sponsored bicycle race was not legally enforceable. An adult male suffered catastrophic and life-altering injuries while participating in a cross-country bicycle trip sponsored by Habitat for Humanity (the "defendant") to raise funds. His parents, as his legal guardians (the "plaintiffs"), sued the defendant, claiming that their son's injuries were caused by its negligence in organizing and conducting the event.

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