Is a fitness club liable for its patrons’ personal injuries?
There are inherent risks to any physical activity. Fitness clubs are keenly aware that their patrons can sustain injury while using their facilities. For that reason, virtually all gyms have waiver agreements required as a condition of membership. Does this make the health club exempt if you are hurt on their premises? A few years ago, the answer was a definitive yes. The conclusion is no longer so clear.
Last month, the New Jersey Appellate Court issued its latest ruling concerning health clubs in the matter of Walters v. YMCA, 437 N.J.Super. 111 (2014). James Walters was injured when he slipped and fell on a faulty pool tread leading to the Newark YMCA’s pool. When he sued for his injuries, the trial court dismissed his case. The judge ruled that Walters signed an exculpatory agreement that clearly stated that the YMCA was not liable for any injuries on their premises.
The appellate judges had a different opinion. They acknowledged that the waiver agreement was valid for some purposes. However, the YMCA could not exclude its obligation to provide an “ordinary common law duty of care owed by all business operators to its invitees.” Walters was not engaged in exercise activities when he was injured. The incident could have occurred on any business premises.
Be careful before you jump to conclusions. This case did not invalidate a prior court decision. In that case, a woman was injured while using a piece of gym equipment. She could not recover for her injuries because of language in the waiver agreement she signed with the fitness club. One of the provisions of that agreement was that the club was not responsible for “the sudden and unforeseen malfunctioning of any equipment.”
What legal recourse do you have against a gym for injuries? Obviously, every case is different and requires evaluation. The Law Offices of Anthony Carbone has been handling personal injury cases for over 25 years and can determine if your case has merit. Please contact us for a free consultation.