Liability When a Non-Parent Signs a Release Waiver on a Child’s Behalf and There Is an Injury

Olivia Checchio v. Sky Zone

Docket No.: A-3461-20

Decided February 15, 2022

Submitted by New Jersey Personal Injury Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark

In a recent unpublished decision, the Appellate Division reviewed the legitimacy of an arbitration clause after a non parent signed on a child’s behalf.

In Checchio v. Sky Zone, in August 2018, fourteen-year-old Olivia Checchio went to Sky Zone South Plainfield—an indoor trampoline park—with four friends and Gina Valenti—the mother of one of the children. Upon arrival at the park, Valenti signed a document entitled “Participant Agreement, Release and Assumption of Risk (The Agreement) – Sky Zone South Plainfield, NJ” (2018 agreement). The 2018 agreement included an arbitration provision under which the signing adult on behalf of the minor child waived a jury trial and agreed to arbitrate any dispute or claim arising out of the child’s use of the Sky Zone premises.

Valenti was not Olivia’s parent, legal guardian, or holder of a power-of-attorney. After Olivia was injured while using the facilities, her mother, Lisa Kump-Checchio, filed a suit on behalf of Olivia and for her own individual claims. Defendants2 moved to enforce the arbitration agreement. The trial court denied the motion, stating that because Valenti signed the arbitration agreement Olivia’s parents “never agreed to the arbitration provision and . . . mutual consent [was] lacking.”

Defendants moved for reconsideration, including in their application five agreements signed by Lisa on behalf of Olivia when she had taken Olivia to Sky Zone on five occasions in 2016 (2016 agreements). The judge granted defendants’ motion for reconsideration on April 25, 2021. He found that, because Lisa signed five prior agreements, she “realized when the child was going to the park . . . Ms. Valenti was going to be confronted with a release that she had to sign in order to let the kids in the park.” Therefore, the trial court found Valenti had actual and apparent authority to sign the arbitration agreement.

Plaintiff appealed, and the Court found there was no legal support for the contention Valenti had apparent or actual authority to sign on behalf of Olivia. What’s more, the 2016 agreement, even if applicable, expired after one year, so that agreement did not hold. Therefore, there was no binding arbitration agreement and the case could proceed in civil court.

This case is important to understand the importance of releases. Releases are utilized in many recreational activities, including the trampoline park above. These are legitimate releases for the most part, unless they are deemed unclear (ambiguous) or completely unfair (unconscionable). Neither of these were found to be the case above, but it was found that the child’s parent did not sign, and therefore it was unenforceable.

If you or someone you know has been injured after signing a release, injured in a car accident, truck crash, or slip and fall, call the experienced personal injury attorneys at Hark & Hark today. For personal injury matters, no money is paid up front, and fees are only collected if a recovery is made. At Hark & Hark, we represent clients for any case in any county in New Jersey Atlantic County, Bergen County, Burlington County, Camden County, Cape May County, Cumberland County, Essex County, Gloucester County, Hudson County, Hunterdon County, Mercer County, Middlesex County, Monmouth County, Morris County, Ocean County, Passaic County, Salem County, Somerset County, Sussex County, Union County, and Warren County and any town including Newark, Jersey City, Paterson, Elizabeth, Edison, Woodbridge, Lakewood, Toms River, Hamilton, Trenton, Clifton, Camden, Brick, Cherry Hill, Passaic, Middletown, Union City, Old Bridge, Gloucester Township, East Orange, Bayonne, Franklin Township, North Bergen, Vineland, and Union.


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Criminal Civil Lawyer

Jeffrey Hark is a New Jersey Civil and Criminal Lawyer.

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