Attorney Ben Schwartz gives his opinion on putting an ice rink in your backyard and the need for everyone to sign a waiver.
Hi, I’m Attorney Ben Schwartz,
Today we are going to answer a viewer question from Eddie in Smyrna, Delaware. Eddie wrote-in and he said, “I want to put an ice rink in my back yard.” He sent me a clip of a video and I’m going to play it for you, it’s actually pretty cool, it’s called easy ice. You can put the rink together yourself and you can fill it with water and it will freeze and you will have an ice rink in your back yard. You can do it on any flat surface. Eddie’s question is, “If I build this ice rink in my back yard, do I need to have the neighborhood kids, my friends and family, sign a waiver? Because if someone falls and gets injured I’m afraid that they are going to sue me.”
Okay Eddie, number one, I think you should have everybody that comes and goes in that ice rink sign a waiver. That is a very good idea and there needs to be an assumption of the risk that acknowledges they are assuming the risk by coming into the ice rink. Number two, whatever you do, do not charge anybody any admission fee for this, because Delaware has a statute. It is called the Delaware guest premises statute, and if
I can find it, I will give you the citation to it. Essentially, under the law in Delaware, it is Title 25 section 1501, it says No person who enters onto private residential or farm premises owned or occupied by another person, either as a guest without payment or as a trespasser, shall have a cause of action against the owner or occupier of such premises for any injuries or damages sustained by such person while on the premises unless such accident was intentional on the part of the owner or occupier or was caused by the willful or wanton disregard of the rights of others. So, as long as you are not charging an entry fee, no one is paying you, no one is compensating you in any way for the privilege of coming to your ice rink in your backyard, then Title 25 section 1501 is going to apply.
What it means is, if you are negligent, if you are careless and someone gets hurt or injured, they can sue you but this lawsuit is probably going to get thrown out. They would need to be able to prove that you intended to hurt them, or that you were reckless; you were willful and wanton. That means more than negligent. You were so extremely negligent that you hurt them. Then they would be able to have a lawsuit, but as long as you are not charging anything, that statute is going to apply to protect you. The other thing is that going back to the topic of the assumption of the risk waiver if it’s a minor, someone under 18, you should have their parents sign the assumption of the risk as well as them.
Now that sounds like a very interesting idea to put an ice rink in your back yard, I fully endorse you. The third thing I want to tell you is, you need to call your homeowners insurance company and tell them that you are doing this. Make sure that they know about it and make sure that you are going to be insured, because even if, let’s say God forbid somebody gets hurt and they sue you, even if you have that liability waiver, you have that assumption of the risk waiver. Even if the Delaware guest premises protects you, if they file a lawsuit, you still have to have a defense attorney to defend you. If you have homeowners insurance on your home and it covers the situation, then they will provide you with a free defense attorney to defend you. Those are the three things you need to do.
I think it is a great idea and I hope that you will call me. I will come and bring my kids and we will have a great time this winter, I am looking forward to it! Eddie, thanks for writing in, just write me back and let me know your address. I’m attorney Ben Schwartz, thanks for watching. If you have a question for me that has something to do with the law and you would like me to answer it in video format like this, send me an email below.