Those who are members of gyms most likely sign a contract when they start their membership. Most who sign do not read what they have signed. However, those joining a fitness center may want to reconsider their contract agreement and read the fine print, because they might have signed a binding liability waiver.
For one plaintiff in a personal injury lawsuit, that liability waiver came back – and with a big bite. Patricia Evans from Pennsylvania was injured while working out at her local LA Fitness gym. The 60-year old fell and fractured her wrist while doing suicide runs with her trainer. In her lawsuit, she alleged that her trainer was pushing her too hard, and it caused the injury.
In a judgment, the LA Fitness team won because when Ms. Evans signed up for the fitness center, she signed a liability waiver.
Liability waivers might seem like a minor clause, but they carry a significant impact regarding liability-based lawsuits. Most gyms or facilities will only permit the use of their grounds if a liability waiver is signed because that is how they protect themselves from lawsuits.
You have two options when faced with a liability waiver: Sign it and join, or don’t sign it and don’t join.
These waivers are traditionally upheld by the courts because you are not being forced to sign them. You sign them voluntarily to use the facilities.
This is what happened to the woman in PA. She had to sign the waiver and use LA Fitness, or not sign the waiver and not gain access to the gym. Her attorney filed a suit that challenged the waiver because there was a contract of adhesion in place. He went on to state that the woman had no choice but to sign.
The court did not agree. They decided that if Ms. Evans did not like the agreement she faced, she could have walked away. LA Fitness did not corner her into signing or influence her signature in anyway. By signing the liability waiver, she agreed to the inherent risk of using the facility.
There are some who agree with the use of the liability waiver, while others feel it is unfair to the gym’s customer base to be held accountable for injuries that the facility caused.
When you visit a facility or recreational activity, there is a factor of assumed risk. The assumption of risk doctrine can shield a defendant from liability under situations. Assumption of risk is a defense that works even without a liability waiver or legal liability waiver.
Under the doctrine of assumption of risk, a defendant is protected from lawsuits where a plaintiff’s voluntary involvement in an activity requires accepting a level of risks and hazards. For example, someone who goes skydiving is assuming there is risk involved.
Under the primary assumption of risk doctrine, it asserts the fact that there is inherent risk with certain activities, and that risk cannot be avoided even with the most care. Some courts have even stated that any activity that carries a form of inherent risk would be protected under this doctrine if the risk cannot be eliminated without altering the fundamentals of the entire activity.
Examples of Activities that Include the Assumption of Risk:
Even if there is a liability waiver in your gym contract, you may still have a claim against the gym. If the gym was outright negligent or purposely caused your injury, you could have a claim. Even so, the liability waiver may not be upheld by the court if it has inappropriate wording or wording that goes against the law. Therefore, consult with an injury attorney at Malman Law and have your contract assessed fully before assuming that you do not have a claim.
If you signed a liability waiver at a gym or other facility, that waiver may not be enforceable and you could still hold that facility liable for its actions. However, there are certain factors that influence whether the liability waiver is effective or not. These include:
Another important factor is gross negligence. No matter how well-written the liability waiver, if the defendant performs gross negligence, the court will not enforce the contract.
Gross negligence is the failure to exercise even a slight amount of care. This is a deliberate disregard for the safety of others. If someone was convicted of gross negligence, he or she was more than aware that those actions were negligent, and he or she deliberately put him or herself ahead of the safety of others. In some cases, they border on intentional acts.
Some examples of gross negligence include:
There is no liability waiver or assumption of risk that covers gross negligence. If the defendant is grossly negligent, the courts will most likely hold him or her accountable. Gross negligence could even qualify the plaintiff for punitive damages, which are damages designed specifically to punish the defendant for reckless behavior.
Whether you have a liability waiver or not, you have the right to hold reckless parties responsible for their actions. The personal injury attorneys at Malman Law are here to advocate for that right.
Schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with our attorneys today by calling us or request more information online.