What Are Covid-19 Liability Waivers?

If you have visited the gym, a yoga studio, or a hair salon, you may have been asked to sign a “COVID-19 LIABILITY WAIVER,” or something similarly titled. Do you know what you are signing? If not, here is some basic information you need to know.

A waiver is, in its most basic form, a contract between two parties where one party (the customer) agrees to not hold the other party (the business owner) liable for injuries resulting from the business owner’s conduct. A business owner can use a properly drafted COVID-19 waiver to prevent a customer from recovering damages against the business owner if the customer proves that he or she contracted COVID-19 while on the business owner’s premises. A waiver needs to clearly specify the types of activities, circumstances, or situations that it encompasses and for which the customer agrees to relieve the business owner from a duty of care. In this way, the customer will be put on notice of the range of dangers for which he or she assumes the risk of injury, enabling him or her to minimize the risks by exercising a greater degree of caution. With regard to COVID-19, this would mean that the waiver must contain clear, explicit and unequivocal language that the customer is relieving the business from injuries or damages resulting from contracting COVID-19 while on the premises of the business. Moreover, the waiver cannot be against the settled public policy of the state. In Illinois, waivers are contrary to public policy if they they are: (1) between an employer and employee; (2) between the public and those charged with a duty of public service, such as a common carrier or a public utility; or (3) between parties where there is a disparity of bargaining power such that the agreement does not represent a free choice on the part of the plaintiff.  Summing this all up, at the most basic level, waivers need to be clear, voluntary and not against public policy of the state. Because waivers are essentially contracts between two parties, the waiver is only applicable between those two parties. What this means is that if you walk into a business and ultimately contract COVID-19 from that business, the waiver you signed may prevent you from suing that business for your personal injuries. However, if one of your friends contracts COVID-19 from you, the waiver that you signed will not prevent your friend from suing the business where you contracted COVID-19 from. While the business owner may have other defenses available in a lawsuit filed by your friend, he or she will not be able to use the waiver you signed to prevent your friend from recovering damages against the business. In the end, a customer should take waivers seriously, and he or she should ensure that they understand what they are waiving. For more information about COVID-19 liability waivers, contact one of our attorneys at [email protected] or (708) 576-1624.

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