A waiver of the right to sue for negligence, even before it occurs, is valid in Massachusetts. The Massachusetts Appeals Court, in Vallone v. Donna, stated, “As a general proposition, releases of liability for ordinary negligence are valid." Gonsalves v. Commonwealth, 27 Mass.App.Ct. 606, 608 & n. 2, 541 N.E.2d 366 (1989). See Cormier v. Central Mass. Chapter of the Natl. Safety Council, 416 Mass. 286, 288, 620 N.E.2d 784 (1993). However, a release may not shield a defendant from responsibility for violation of a statutory duty. Henry v. Mansfield Beauty Academy, Inc., 353 Mass. 507, 511, 233 N.E.2d 22 (1968). Gonsalves v. Commonwealth, supra at 609 n. 2, 541 N.E.2d 366.
The courts have upheld waivers signed prior to any incident in a variety of situations. In Vallone v. Donna, the Appeals Court held that a waiver of negligence against a skating rink and its employees was valid as to an injury sustained by a skater due to a negligently maintained ice surface. In Cormier v. Central Mass. Chapter of National Safety Council, 620 NE2d 784 (1993), the appeals court upheld a waiver in favor of a company that taught motor cycle safety in a suit by a student who claimed she was injured due to the negligence of the school. In that case, (as with dojos), the student was informed that if she did not sign the waiver, she could not take the course.
It is important to note that lower trial courts generally follow this rule and grant summary judgment (a win without the need for trial) to business owners. The District Court granted summary judgment to a hockey league against a player who alleged he was injured due to the negligence of the league. Hunter v. Skate III, 199 Mass. App. Div. 274. A stable owner was granted summary judgment against a rider who alleged injury due to the negligence of the stable. Powers v. Mukpo, Sept. 1999, Judge Botsford.
As of yet, I have not found any cases dealing with a waiver signed in favor of a dojo. However, a dojo should not be treated any differently from the other businesses mentioned.
Hope this helps somebody out.