Counties Offer Amendments to Liability Waiver Changes

On February 16, 2023, Associate Policy Director Dominic Butchko testified before the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee in support of SB 0291 – Courts – Prohibited Liability Agreements – Recreational Facilities with amendments.

The House Judiciary Committee considered the bill’s cross-file, HB 0207, on February 1. The Committee has since issued a favorable report on this legislation.

SB 0291 prohibits recreational facilities from relying on liability waivers to absolve themselves of any responsibility should a participant be injured, if the injuries in question were caused by negligence on the part of the recreational facility. While it was not the original intent of the bill, the language used could very well be interpreted by the courts to include county-led programs and facilities, such as those meant for after school care. The Maryland Association of Counties (MACo) is actively collaborating with the advocates of SB 0291 to ensure the legislation is not interpreted in this manner. Accordingly, MACo urges the General Assembly to consider amendments clarifying the relationship of local government to this new legal principle.

From the MACo Testimony:

According to the advocates, the intent of SB 291 is to eliminate the use liability waivers for certain forprofit recreational facilities. While not the original intent of the advocates, the use of the term commercial within the bill may be interpreted by the courts to also include county programs and facilities. This interpretation could put at risk dozens of county-led programs meant for after school care and youth recreation. Counties suggests amendments to specify that the limitations of the bill should not apply to publicly owned facilities, but to also avoid any unintended consequences to expand or limit a potential plaintiff’s rights under existing laws to file tort lawsuits against governments.

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