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Child Waiver Bill Advances in House

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Tallahassee, FL – A bill that would permit parents to waive the legal right of their children to sue a business for negligence sailed out of a House committee Tuesday. Margie Menzel reports.

House Bill 285 by Rep. Mike Horner, R-Kissimmee, would nullify a 2008 Supreme Court opinion Kirton versus Fields in which the court ruled that releases signed by parents to let children participate in commercial activities - at theme parks, for instance - are unenforceable. Horner said this year's version of the bill is a major compromise from one that failed last year.

"You may recall, from last year's debate, the parade of horrible scenarios that were conjured up," he said, "exploding go-carts, roller-coasters flying off the tracks, drunken boat captains and bus drivers No one could ever produce a real-live case where a waiver protected these types of grossly negligent companies."

Rep. Adam Fetterman, D-Port St. Lucie, said the bill wasn't about tort reform. In the case of activities like motor sports, he said, bills could be tailored specifically.

"However, a broad bill like this is not reform. It is immunity," said Fetterman. "As I see it, it is immunity for wrongdoers."

Fetterman argued it was the state's duty to protect parents from signing waivers they didn't understand. Horner said it's a matter of personal responsibility. The bill passed with 10 yeas and 3 nays.