Playdate Waivers Prove Some Parents Have Gone Totally Mad

playdatesI’ve been hearing whispers lately of parents asking other parents to sign a waiver before their child comes over to play, or before their kid is dropped off at little Suzie’s birthday party. At first I thought it was a joke. Surely parents aren’t that nuts, I thought. Sure, many of us are a bit more uptight, shall we say, about our children’s safety than in generations past. But a waiver? That’s just a whole other level of insanity. Turns out it’s a thing.

In a recent Miss Manners column in the Washington Post, for instance, a reader wrote in with the following:

“My son is invited to spend time in the home of one of his classmates. The classmate’s parents request that I sign a release of liability before my son arrives. I think this is unbelievably rude — as if to imply that I would sue them if there is an accident or injury! Am I overreacting, or has our society really come to believe that anyone who visits your home, and is injured, will sue?”

She replied by wondering “what goes in that household that such a precaution is necessary?” though that’s not how I see it all. I see it as this classmate’s parents being ridiculously paranoid, plain and simple (I wouldn’t leave my child there unattended, that’s for sure).

And at one of my favorite sites, Free Range Kids, a mother writes in asking to deal with a playdate waiver (yes, a playdate waiver) she was asked to sign by a new neighbor. It was actually four pages long and referred specifically to the trampoline in their backyard (death trap!).

Look, I get that parents don’t want to be sued. Who does? But to ask your kids’ friends’ parents to sign a liability waiver pre-playdate is just absurd. What ever happened to just having some faith? That said, many indoor playgrounds, for example, asks parents to sign a waiver (I think I had to sign one for my son’s birthday party at a trampoline place). That’s different, though, as it’s a business as opposed to someone’s home.

The truth is, kids get hurt. It’s a part of childhood. Our job as parents is to help avoid injuries as much as possible, but that doesn’t mean we should be hovering over our kids 24/7. And it certainly doesn’t mean we should be asking our friends to sign waivers every time they drop little Johnny off at our house for a playdate. Has the world gone mad?

(Photo: iStockphoto)

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  • NotThumper

    Sadly, we live in an extremely litigious society and so these parents feel they need to cover their asses. I think it’s smart.

  • Sara M.

    All it accomplishes is making the parents of the invited children more nervous to leave their kids there, and more likely alienating the hosting family’s child(ren) because the kids can’t come over because their parents don’t feel like signing a waiver. It’s not a marriage–no pre-nup. I don’t even sign those arbitration agreements with doctors. I don’t plan to sue, but I don’t want my options limited ahead of time. I sign those waivers before races, because I really really want to race and there’s no way around it. Playdate–my kid’ll find another friend.

  • Andrea

    I’m not signing it and I am not leaving my kid at anyone’s house that is THAT paranoid. Having said that, maybe if we didn’t have such a sue-happy society, these things wouldn’t happen.

  • Steph

    For a regular play date I wouldn’t, but I did have a friend who had a trampoline way before the safety things came out to put around them and even after who’s parents made parents sign a waiver before they touched that trampoline. I can get behind that because people will sue for anything and this was like 20 years ago (God I’m old). If we had a tramp or something like that I’d do it, but not just to have some kids over to play. Good Lord.

  • Emily

    If you own your own home, you have liability insurance as part of your homeowner’s policy. Ditto if you rent and have a renter’s policy. And if you have a trampoline, you’re just silly if you don’t have an excess liability (umbrella) policy on top of that. This covers just about everything that could happen, really.

  • Katie

    I dont want my child to be over at someone’s house if they are insane and/or paranoid enough to write up a “playdate waiver”

    That falls under tin foil on head so aliens cant read your thoughts kind of paranoia for me.

  • amanda

    I have 3 kids 2,3 and 7. I actually think its a good idea. I have thought about it before but I didnt know it was becoming more commen. I dont think it has to do with the children as much as the parents.

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  • Jen Clark

    My house is safe, so I would never be worried about someone suing me for an injury, or with children getting injured in general. What a waiver sounds more like to me, is for an extreme measure in case your child dies or gets injured enough to have to be hospitalized while over there, which freaks me out honestly, I wouldn’t want my child being in a household that’s that paranoid you have to sign a waiver in order for them to come over. What could possibly be so dangerous over there? Are parents really that paranoid that someone will sue if a child comes home with a small bruise or scratch? Someone being so unsure on their household safety that they need waivers, just doesn’t settle well with me.

  • Liz

    A friend of mine’s daughter was at a birthday party for kids 7-and-up where another girl (‘Jane’) fell off the bounce-house & broke her arm. The party was supervised but – Kids are slippery little suckers & gravity works fast! Daughter comes home a couple weeks later & asks what ‘Suing’ is, cos Jane’s parents are suing the birthday girl’s family due to the broken arm and ‘pain & suffering’. The compensation asked for was in the 1,000s. And this was the BOONIES in Ireland. Y’know – Farmers & such, not ‘sophisticated, wheelin’ & dealin’, uptight city-folk’. And health-care is pretty much free there, esp. for something ‘regular’ like a broken arm, so I’m not sure what hospital costs they even had to pay but it would be low-to-non-existent. After that, Jane isn’t really welcomed at anyone else’s home anymore. I hope the money her parents got (if they got anything at all) was worth ruining their child’s social life. My friend feels awful for the girl but is too freaked to have Jane over now too. Shame, cos her daughter & Jane are good pals and she’s apparently a lovely girl, despite her parent’s ridiculous behaviour.

    If I had kids, I would seriously think about doing this cos there’s too many people who are sue-hungry jerks and, instead of judging people who feel they have to protect themselves from frivolous suits, you should be asking what may have happened in the past to make them take such measures. I would bet that 9 out of 10 parents who want signed waivers have had trouble with other parents who believe, “where there’s blame, there’s a claim.” Or maybe it’s a way for these parents to put off other parents or children they don’t like, trust or want around without explicitly saying so – “Oh! You don’t want to sign the waiver? Well, OK I understand but that’s my policy so I guess the kids will just have to see each other at school!” *quietly pats themselves on the back*

    If you’re really not the type to sue & you understand that kids can get hurt even with an adult RIGHT THERE, then what do you care about signing it? I mean, yeah – Read it thoroughly and ask as many questions as you like about safety precautions/supervision policies in their home before you sign but, seriously, if it’s simply for protection of assets against stupid lawsuits, why not comply?

  • crazy

    If a guest of mine breaks his legs while at my house and tries to sue me for it, I will break his other leg…

  • Mike

    People sue Mcdonalds for coffee being too hot, football fans sue the teams for sending 3 more texts over two weeks than was stated in the agreement when THEY signed up to get team updates. Why shouldn’t people be paranoid of being sued, that is our society now Plus, why are the parents just dropping off their kids and leaving with people they don’t even know. This isn’t daycare, its a birthday party or play date. Do they not have enough time in their life to hang out while their child plays and maybe make a new freind?