Why Waivers Won’t Necessarily Protect Clients From COVID-19 Liability

 Wednesday, June 24, 2020

 Canadian Underwriter

Waivers of liability for disease transmission might protect commercial clients from lawsuits, but the industry will not know for sure until one is tested in an appeal court, a litigation defence lawyer suggests.

A waiver will not, on its own, protect a client from liability, said John Olah, a partner with law firm Beard Winter LLP, whose expertise includes liability of ski resorts and hotels.

Instead, a waiver is only one small part of a larger risk mitigation strategy, said Olah. He was asked what happens if a commercial client hosts an event and the client asks attendees to sign a waiver agreeing that the organizer is not responsible if an attendee becomes ill as a result of contracting a disease such as COVID-19 as a result of attending the event.

Even with a waiver, it is still “critical for commercial entities to act reasonably and appropriately in conjunction with the best medicine that we have, with best practices whether it be wearing a mask, whether it be social distancing, whether it be cleaning on a regular basis,” said Olah.

Moreover, a waiver must be drafted for a specific situation. You can’t just copy and paste the wording of someone else’s waiver and expect it will hold up for your client in their specific situation.