Sunday, February 3, 2013

Wagenblast v. Odessa School District case brief

Wagenblast v. Odessa School District case summary
758 P.2d 968 (Wash. 1988)
Tort Law

PROCEDURAL HISTORY: In order to participate in sports, defendant public school districts required plaintiff students and parents (parents) to sign a release. The parents, in two separate actions, sought injunctions. The Superior Court of Lincoln County (Washington) granted the parents motion for summary judgment and enjoined the school district from requiring the releases. The Superior Court of King County (Washington) denied them injunctive and declaratory relief.

-Upon this consolidated appeal, the court held that the releases were invalid as against public policy. -The court applied six factors to determine that the exculpatory agreements violated public policy.

-The court found that interscholastic sports were extensively regulated and were a matter of public importance.

-Given the emphasis on sports by the public and the school system, it was unrealistic to expect students to view athletics as an activity entirely separate and apart from their schooling.
-The programs were open to all students who met the skill and eligibility standards, and there was no alternative program of organized competition.
-Student athletes and their parents had no alternative but to sign the release or be barred from the program.
-The student athlete was placed under the school coach's control and subject to the risk that the school district would breach its duty of care.
-The court cautioned that its holding did not include risks other than that of the school's negligence. -To the extent that the releases represented consents to relieve the school districts of their duty of care, they were invalid whether they were termed releases or express assumptions of risk.

CONCLUSION: The court affirmed the grant of summary judgment in favor of the Lincoln County parents and reversed the denial of the King County parents' request for injunctive and declaratory relief.

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