Pre-Injury Liability Waivers in Ohio

Pre-injury liability waivers “which clearly and unequivocally relieve one from the results of his own negligence are generally not contrary to public policy in Ohio.” Swartzentruber v. Wee–K Corp., 690 N.E.2d 941, 944 (4th Dist.1997). Ohio courts assert that “[r]eleases from liability for future tortious conduct are generally not favored by the law and are narrowly construed,” Brown–Spurgeon v. Paul Davis Systems of Tri–State Area, Inc., No. CA2012–09–069., 2013 WL 1883214 (Ohio.App. May 6, 2013), citing Glaspell v. Ohio Edison Co., 505 N.E.2d 264 (Ohio 1987). However, those same courts “routinely apply such releases to bar future tort liability as long as the intent of the parties, with regard to exactly what kind of liability and what persons and/or entities are being released, is stated in clear and unambiguous terms.” Hague v. Summit Acres Skilled Nursing & Rehab., 7th Dist. No. 09 NO 364, 2010–Ohio–6404, ¶ 20. Although “the party waiving his right to recover must make a conscious choice to accept the consequences of the other party's negligence” when signing a liability waiver, Ohio courts have found that a legally enforceable waiver need not contain the word “negligence,” nor even explicitly identify the party whose negligence is being waived. Holmes v. Health & Tennis Corp. of Am. 659 N.E.2d 812 (Ohio.App. 1995); Swartzentruber v. Wee-K Corp., 690 N.E.2d 941 (Ohio.App. 1997).

A key exception to the general enforceability of waivers in Ohio exists for actions alleging willful and wanton misconduct. “Even a valid and enforceable exculpatory contract would not relieve [a party] from liability for this sort of action.” Swartzentruber, 690 N.E.2d at 944.

 Last updated 12/2018

This assessment of the enforceability of waivers has been prepared by non-lawyer law students and does not constitute legal advice.