Parents unknowingly sign arbitration agreements all the time. For example, they likely sign an arbitration agreement anytime they register their child for intramural sports, a trampoline park or even a private school. Indeed, arbitration agreements that meet strict requirements set forth under Pennsylvania law are generally favored by courts. But what happens when a child becomes injured? Is an arbitration agreement signed by a parent a valid waiver of a minor’s constitutional right to a jury trial?
Surprising as it may seem, the issue has not been squarely addressed by any Pennsylvania appellate court. The federal judiciary in Pennsylvania has grappled with the issue only once: In Troshak v. Terminix International, 1998 WL 401693 (E.D. Pa. 1998), the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, applying Pennsylvania law, held that “a parent does not have the authority to bind a minor child to an arbitration provision.” Given the prevalence of arbitration agreements in our daily lives, it is time for a definitive answer by the Pennsylvania judiciary. In this author’s opinion, that answer must be that an arbitration agreement signed by a parent or guardian on behalf of a minor child is unenforceable as to the child.