Woman Held to Waiver Signed by Husband in California Health Club Case

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By Doyice Cotten

Sheila Brown joined 24 Hour on February 27, 2001, signing the 24 Hour Fitness USA, Inc. membership agreement containing a liability waiver.  She terminated her membership several months later; then, after a few months her son renewed her membership through his corporate membership. Her husband signed the club waiver on her behalf.

Two years later, Sheila tripped over a dumbbell that had been left on the floor and suffered injury. She filed suit against 24 Hour and claimed the waiver was unenforceable because she had not signed the waiver.

“Negligence or Otherwise” Language Questioned in New Jersey Health Club Case

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By Doyice Cotten

Jenna Sauro, a New Jersey resident, filed a class action lawsuit against L.A. Fitness International, LLC. (Sauro v. L.A. Fitness International, Inc., 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 58144). She made many allegations including that the contract violated three New Jersey statutes. One of the claims made by the plaintiff included the allegation that the waiver attempted to waive liability for intentional conduct, recklessness, and gross negligence.

This claim arose from language in the waiver:

 Member hereby releases and holds L.A.

2016 Health Club Cases in New York — No Waivers

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By Doyice Cotten

Injuries occurring in health clubs in the State of New York can be problematic for club owners since protection against liability for negligence is ineffective in many circumstances – one being in places of amusement or recreation.  New York statute G.O.L. Sec. 5-326, passed in 1976, deems waivers void as against public policy under specific circumstances.  Specifically, the law provides:

[e]very covenant, agreement or understanding in or in connection with, or collateral to,

Regular Inspections, and Complete Records!! A MUST for Health Clubs . . .

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By Doyice Cotten

In Chavez v. 24 Hour Fitness USA, Inc. (2015), Stacey Chavez was injured when the back panel of a “FreeMotion” cable crossover machine (“cross trainer”) struck her in the head. She subsequently filed suit. The machine was still in service despite a missing bracket and missing magnetic strips that were to secure the back panel.

24 Hour Fitness claimed it was not liable because she had signed a waiver of liability – a complete defense against negligence claims.

Connecticut Court Relies on Reardon Ruling in Declaring Health Club Waiver Violates Public Policy

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By Doyice Cotten

A woman was injured while working with a trainer employed by Planet Fitness. The trainer had lifted Butler onto a bosu balance ball and walked away. As she dismounted from the ball, she fell and suffered injury.

She filed suit claiming negligence; Planet Fitness countered with a liability waiver signed by the plaintiff as a defense. Part of the waiver language stated that the signer released Planet Fitness “from any responsibility or liability for any injury or damage to myself,

Waivers Protect Georgia Health Club and Personal Trainer

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 By Doyice Cotten

A man and his wife joined a gym, signing a total of 3 waivers of liability. He began working with a personal trainer and on the day he suffered a stroke, he took a food supplement (R.A.G.E.), which he had bought elsewhere, and did a workout with the trainer. He sued the gym alleging the workout was too vigorous and sued the drug manufacturer.

The first document he signed was a membership agreement with an exculpatory agreement within it:

“WAIVER AND RELEASE LIABILITY”:

The Club urges you and all members to obtain a physical examination from a doctor before using any exercise equipment or participating in any exercise class.

Health Club Case Sheds Light on Puerto Rico Waiver Law

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By Doyice Cotten

Kelvin Lugo lost part of his index finger while returning a dumbbell to the rack as another dumbbell shifted and rolled onto his finger.  He sued alleging negligence on the part of Health Club of America (HCA). Among the defenses offered by HCA was the fact that Lugo had signed the following waiver intended to release the club from liability:

Millenium Fitness Management Urges all members to Obtain a physical examination From their physicians prior to the use of any exercise equipment or attendance in any exercise class .

Needed: Risk Management in Ohio Health Club

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By Doyice Cotten

In a recent case (Geczi v. Lifetime Fitness, 2012 Ohio App. LEXIS 2580), Jodi Geczi was injured when her treadmill began jerking violently. The case revealed some serious risk management deficiencies that can be easily avoided by health club management.

First, an employee told her he had known the treadmill was broken.

Second, a club manager told her that he had known the treadmill was malfunctioning the night before.

Waiver Cases: Health Clubs 4 Plaintiffs 0

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Doyice Cotten summarizes four recent cases involving health clubs. The first three are appellate cases from Minnesota and the fourth is a New Jersey Supreme Court case. These cases re-emphasize the importance of unambiguous waivers. One might say that two of the three Minnesota cases involve gross negligence or willful and wanton actions, but the court did not agree. Actions resulting in injury are not often deemed grossly negligent, reckless, or willful and wanton by the courts. This high threshold further increases the value of well-written liability waivers.