Sharon v. City of Newton
437 Mass. 99, 769 N.E.2d 738, (Mass. 2002)

  • Sharon was injured during cheerleader practice. She sued for damages.
    • Her father had signed a “Parental Consent, Release from Liability and Indemnity Agreement” with the school.
    • Sharon argued that they didn’t realize that they were waiving the right to make claims against the school by signing the form.
    • Sharon also argued that the waiver was made under duress because she would have been barred from participating in cheerleading if her father hadn’t signed it.
  • The Trial Court found for Newton. Sharon appealed.
    • The Trial Court found that the waiver was a binding contract and Sharon could not sue.
  • The Appellate Court affirmed.
    • The Appellate Court found that the waiver was clearly labeled and a reasonable person would have understood what they were signing.
    • The Court found that Sharon had a duty to read the contract.
      • It’s not Newton’s fault if the Sharons’ signed a contract they didn’t read or understand.
    • The Court found that for voluntary activities, like cheerleading, it’s a take it or leave it situation (better known as a contract of adhesion). There is no duress.
      • Duress is for contracts that you are forced to sign. No one forced Sharon to sign this contract against her will.
  • Another aspect of this case was whether Sharon’s father could sign away her legal right to sue, and if so, could Sharon disaffirm the contract under the infancy doctrine, which gives minors the right to repudiate contracts under certain circumstances?
    • Here, the Court said that the infancy doctrine does not apply. The purpose of permitting minors to void contracts is to afford them protection from “their own improvidence and want of sound judgment.” In this case, the father’s judgment sufficed.
    • Other Courts have said the opposite!