This is the second of a 5-part series on ways to reduce the risk of a lawsuit. This part will focus on guidelines dealing with the facility and equipment.
5. Establish a Complete Facility Inspection Program
The inspection program should be broad in scope, including several types of inspections. There should be a daily inspection. This does not have to be time consuming or detailed, but someone should take a few minutes before opening to walk through the facility with a brief checklist to see if there are any obvious hazards or problems visible.
by Charles R. Gregg
Reb Gregg is a leading attorney, lecturer and writer in legal liability issues for adventure, education and recreation based outdoor programs. He is a true expert in the area of risk management.
The primary purpose of a risk management plan is not the avoidance of legal liability. Rather, it is the maintenance of a quality program; that is, one which deals reasonably and fairly with its clients or students and their families.
You can do many things to reduce the risk of a lawsuit in your fitness center. Here are some important first steps.
Many fitness center operators are fearful of being sued. And those who aren’t, should be! Even if you use a waiver and have insurance, a lawsuit is bad news. You have a big headache that will drain your attention and your peace-of-mind. In addition, the process of defending a lawsuit usually lasts for several years. Even if you eventually win, you have had the worry and, often, an abundance of bad publicity. Financially, your insurance may not cover the claim, and your rates will probably go up. All in all, it is better to avoid a suit in the first place. You can do many things to reduce the risk of an injury and a subsequent lawsuit in your fitness center.
How do I control risk in my sport related business? Get the facts about Risk Management. Risk management is an on-going process by which a business or corporate entity attempts to control the programmatic and financial risks in order to reduce costs, enable desirable programming, and provide financial stability.
You should be able to identify the risks facing your facility. The question is, what do you do about a risk once it is identified? Whether it be a property exposure, liability for negligence or otherwise, or regarding business operations, management must determine the extent of the risk by examining the following: 1) its potential severity (possible impact on the corporation functioning and possible seriousness of a resulting injury), and 2) the likelihood of the risk or injury occurring. After determining the extent of the risk, four control approaches are available.
Your certification requirements should go beyond taking an employee’s word for it. Research the certifying organization and make a paper trail to help avoid client injury and litigation.
Ask, “Are the actions of my personal trainers going to land me in a lawsuit?” Client Anne Capati thought the personal trainer she hired at Crunch Gym in New York, N.Y., was an expert. However, she suffered a brain hemorrhage and subsequently died as a result of his recommendations. Her husband, Doug Hanson, filed a lawsuit that has created a stir in the industry.
By John Wolohan
Common sense tells you that if your view of the playing surface from the seating bowl includes the back of the goal, you may be in danger of being struck by a ball or puck. Or, maybe not. After a Wake County court threw out Teresa Allred’s lawsuit against a women’s soccer league and the owners and operators of a Cary, N.C., stadium now called SAS Soccer Park, an appeals court ruled in December that the lawsuit could continue.
The question of whether or not fitness centers have a legal duty to maintain an automated external defibrillator is still being decided on a state-by-state basis. In one recent case, Fowler v. Bally Total Fitness, Maryland’s Cook County Circuit Court ruled that even though there was no legislative mandate requiring an AED, Bally Total Fitness acted with indifference to the welfare and safety of its patrons when it failed to have one on site. …Other jurisdictions have looked at clubs’ duty of care differently. For example, as demonstrated by the Court of Appeal of Florida, Fourth District’s decision in L.A. Fitness International v. Julianna Tringali Mayer… sometimes just promptly calling for medical assistance is enough to satisfy your legal duty.
Summary: A girl’s fatal fall highlights the importance of proper supervision and medical care.
Athletics and recreation administrators have a legal duty to not only provide people using their facilities proper supervision during an activity, but also proper emergency medical care in the case of an injury. As is demonstrated in Spotlite Skating Rink Inc. v. Barnes [2008 Miss. LEXIS 322], what constitutes proper supervision and medical care will often hinge on which testimony a jury finds more credible.
On Dec. 25, 2000, 10-year-old Bianca Barnes and some friends took a bus to the Spotlite Skating Rink in Greenwood, Miss. Accounts of what happened after she arrived there vary. According to Barnes’ friends, Barnes was on the roller skating surface, without skates, and fell, hitting her head. After finding her on the floor crying and holding her head, they helped her to a nearby table, where she stayed with her head down for the rest of the evening. At no time, they claimed, were they asked by any Spotlite employees how to get in touch with Barnes’ mother, and no one from Spotlite helped them get home.
It is time for fitness centers to enter the 21st century and have an onsite Automated External Defibrillator (AED). Legally, fitness centers no longer have a choice in many states. Not only have these states passed legislation requiring fitness facilities to purchase AEDs and train their staff, but more national professional organizations are taking a stand favoring their use. The day is not far when AEDs will be the required standard of care for fitness centers nationwide.