SAN FRANCISCO — Recrea-tion providers in California may be held liable for gross negligence regardless of the wording on liability waivers signed by participants or their parents, the California Supreme Court ruled 6-1 Monday.
The state high court decision permits the parents of a developmentally disabled girl who drowned at a summer camp run by the city of Santa Barbara to sue even though her mother had signed an agreement assuming "full responsibility for risk of bodily injury, death or property damage."
California's recreation and sports industry had strongly urged the court to reject liability, warning that it could mean the death knell for camps, fitness centers, hiking clubs and other providers of physical activity.
But Chief Justice Ronald M. George, who wrote the majority opinion, said there was no evidence that states with even more liberal rights to sue have lost recreational opportunities.
The ruling means that despite the wording on waivers parents routinely sign to permit their children to participate in sports and other activities, the providers can be held liable if an accident was caused by gross rather than ordinary negligence.