College campuses across the country have largely sat empty for months, but as schools consider whether to bring students back, they're also considering their legal obligations.
“They are a business that needs revenue to function,” explained Chris Feudo, an attorney with Foley Hoag in Boston, Massachusetts.
As an attorney, Feudo has been advising folks about COVID-19 waivers, which gained national notoriety leading up to President Donald Trump’s rally in Tulsa last month. Businesses have also been turning to these forms in hopes of freeing themselves from legal responsibility if someone catches the virus.
The next round of waivers could be coming from colleges and universities, and many have already mandated student-athletes to start signing the forms in order to start practicing. Students returning to empty campuses could be next.
“It sends a really dangerous message,” Feudo said. “If you’re saying to your employees, faculty, students, it’s sending a message that the college or university is bringing people back when there’s still a substantial risk.”
A COVID-19 waiver could mean a family loses any right to seek compensation if a student gets sick at school.
But Feudo is skeptical any of these waivers will hold up in court.
“You’re not going to find out whether it’s enforceable until somebody gets sick and sues,” he said.