Students Forced to Sign COVID-19 Liability Waivers: Is it Legal?

Posted on August 25th, 2020 in Civil Right

Pennsylvania State University faced backlash from students and parents after requiring students to sign a liability agreement and assume all risk of COVID-19 prior to returning to campus for the fall semester.

Now the university has taken a step back and will provide students an alternate legal agreement regarding coronavirus.

The original agreement stated, “I assume any and all risk of exposure to COVID-19 that may result from attending Penn State, or participating in Penn State activities, and I acknowledge that exposure or infection may result in personal injury, illness, permanent disability, or death.”

The new agreement will offer modified language to clear the confusion stating,
“Even with the mitigation steps taken by Penn State and my compliance with this compact, I acknowledge that Penn State cannot prevent the risks of exposure to COVID-19 that may result from attending Penn State or participating in Penn State activities.”

School officials are reminding students and parents that the intent was never to be a liability waiver, but an acknowledgment of risks.

But parents and students don’t agree in all cases. According to InsideHigher Ed, “students enrolled at various colleges across the country are being prompted by their institutions to sign similar agreements acknowledging, and in some cases even assuming, all the risks of returning to campus. Some of the agreements are more explicit than others,” implying that students are waiving their rights to pursue litigation if negligence by the university occurs.

While schools are permitting students to take leave if they don’t feel safe returning, for those on rigorous academic schedules that must be followed to complete degree requirements, where does that leave them?

Are COVID-19 Liability Waivers Legal?

While no one can be forced to sign a COVID-19 liability waiver, it may impact a student’s ability to return to campus for denying the agreement.

Though families will likely have difficulty suing universities if a student contracts COVID-19 and faces serious injury, families who can prove that their college student contracted coronavirus at the university then brought it home, leading to illness or death of another, may be more likely.

Ultimately, these decisions will be made by judges as to enforceability. But protecting your right to pursue action should something happen to you is critical. And Kalinoski Law Offices can help.

COVID-19 Liability Waivers: Protect Your Rights

You may be eager to return to college, but when you are made to waive your rights to pursue legal action should something happen to you in return, it’s time to weigh your options. While many universities claim these are only acknowledgments, it is always best to seek legal advice on such contracts.

Life is full of uncertainty. Do not let the world of academia manipulate you into giving your rights away. At Kalinoski Law Offices P.C., we fight for your civil rights in the classroom, in the workplace, and in public accommodations. Contact us today for a free consultation.

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