Health Club Instruction Liability Lawyers

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 What is Health Club Instruction Liability?

Americans are more active today than ever before. As a result, many people seek physical fitness in health clubs, fitness or athletic centers, and private gyms. Currently, more than 60 million people are members of one of the more than 36,000 health clubs in the U.S.

Health clubs may find that they are liable in a variety of ways to their patrons for injuries. The liability of health clubs is generally based on the legal theory of negligence. One area where health clubs may be liable is for the quality of any instruction, training or supervision they may provide to their patrons.

Health clubs often employ personal trainers, class instructors, or facility supervisors who work closely with health club patrons. They may lead classes or give advice about fitness techniques, workout routines and how to use a facility’s equipment. In some cases, health clubs and other fitness facilities can be liable for the actions of instructors, trainers and supervisors based on a theory of vicarious liability.

Vicarious liability is a legal doctrine that assigns to a person who did not cause injury liability for the injury. Liability is assigned because the person is in a particular legal relationship to another person whose negligence did cause the injury. It is also referred to as “imputed negligence.” Legal relationships that can lead to imputed negligence include the relationship between parent and child, husband and wife, the owner of a vehicle and a driver, and employer and employee.

Ordinarily the independent negligence of one person cannot result in the liability of another person. In some circumstance, however, it is considered just to make one person or entity responsible for the liability of another.

What Kind of Injuries Can Result from Health Club Negligence?

Some of the injuries to patrons that poor fitness instruction, training or supervision of health club employees can cause are as follows:

  • Muscle sprains and strains;
  • Cardiovascular problems;
  • Increased anxiety;
  • Whiplash, which is a soft tissue injury that causes a strain or tear to the muscles or tendons in a person’s neck;.
  • Herniated discs;
  • Broken bones from dropped weights or other heavy equipment.

Liability for Injuries that result from poor quality instruction, training or improper supervision have even been extended to negligent recommendation of a work-out or diet plan.

What Factors May Show Instructor Liability?

When a court considers a lawsuit for negligence filed against a fitness facility by a patron because of the poor quality instruction, training or supervision, several factors may be considered.

These factors include the following:

  • The patron’s age, maturity, experience, ability level, and physical condition;
  • Whether the activity involved a required a warm-up;
  • If the activity involved was one in which the particular patron was qualified to participate;
  • Whether the patron was warned in any way of possible risks;
  • If the instructor or supervisor showed or demonstrated the proper way to do an activity to the patron;
  • Whether the facility provided an instructor or trainer with guidelines;
  • What kind of education and experience an instructor or supervisor possessed;
  • Whether personal trainers or fitness instructors were fully qualified for their roles;
  • Whether the owner was negligent in hiring or training staff.

These are the types of issues that may give rise to a claim for negligence on the part of a fitness facility.

In addition, conditions at a fitness facility may have an impact on a situation in which a client is injured. For example, the following conditions may play a role:

  • Broken, defective, or improperly maintained weight lifting machines, treadmills, and ellipticals;
  • Wet or uneven floors that create a slip and fall hazard;
  • Torn carpeting that presents a trip and fall hazard;
  • Shoddy electrical work;
  • Exercise equipment of other items left in high traffic areas;
  • Improper spacing between exercise machines;
  • Incorrect setup of equipment;
  • Failure to warn patrons of the risks involved in using exercise equipment.

It is important to remember that a fitness facility may be liable for injuries that are not related to the negligence of instructors and trainers. The condition of the facility itself could be the cause of an accident that results in injury to a client, and it may lead to liability for negligence on the part of the facility.

In addition, exercise equipment may be defective, which could conceivably lead an injured patron to file a claim for strict product liability.

Can a Health Club Successfully Get Clients to Waive Liability?

As the popularity of gyms increases, injuries are also on the rise. Gym owners owe a general duty of care to customers and a failure to fulfill that duty can lead to liability as detailed above.

Club owners are likely to include a waiver of liability or release from liability in the contracts that customers must sign when they join a gym or club. They do this in an effort to avoid liability for negligence. Clauses that waive a client’s claim for liability means that the client acknowledges the risks of participation in various activities, which may be specified in the contract, and releases the facility from liability for any injuries the client may suffer.

Sometimes fitness facility agreements may contain assumption of the risk clauses or provisions. They may be used in contracts in the few states which do not allow the use of releases or waivers of liability by fitness facilities. Assumption of the risk is a defense to liability for negligence. This particular defense arises if it can be shown that the victim has knowingly and voluntarily assumed the risk of harm connected to a particular activity, e.g. health club membership.

While most states allow the use of these releases or waivers to avoid liability for negligence, they are generally not viewed favorably in law and can often be interpreted strictly by courts and given very limited effect.

So, for example, a fitness facility owner may not be able to avoid liability for an injury if the written disclaimer was not obvious because it appeared in fine print buried in a long contract, or it was on the second page of a two-page contract or in some other location in which it was not likely to be seen by the patron.

If the owner of a facility were to be serious about obtaining the protection of a waiver or release, they may want the clause to be in a prominent place, possibly initialed by the patron. In addition, claims or lawsuits based on gross negligence or willful conduct are not barred by waivers or releases due to public policy considerations.

The law in some states, such as New York and Virginia for example, do not allow the use of releases and waivers in health and fitness facilities. Most states allow these waivers or releases in contracts to be used to protect health and fitness facilities and their employees from liability for acts of general negligence. Their use is almost universal in the U.S.

Almost universal, but not completely, because by statute also in Massachusetts, Montana and Louisiana, health club contracts are prohibited from containing provisions in which the patron waives negligence claims arising from the member’s activities at the facility. The law in these states prohibit the enforcement of liability waivers or releases from liability in virtually all types of facilities, whether they offer sports activities, physical fitness, or recreation.

Not only are health club liability waivers unenforceable in Massachusetts, but also the inclusion of this type of waiver in an agreement can be used by the health club member to void the entire contract between the facility and the patron. It is also a per se violation of the Massachusetts Consumer Protection Act. This allows the member to recover damages and attorney’s fees.

The Massachusetts statute defines a “health club” as a facility or location in which any person or business has facilities for instruction, training, or assistance in the developing physical fitness. This is a broad definition that includes health spas, sports, tennis and racquetball clubs, figure salons, health studios, gymnasiums, weight control centers or studios, martial arts and self-defense schools, and any other similar kind of facility So, its application is broad.

So, if a person has suffered injury in a fitness facility, it is important to know the law of the state regarding releases of liability, waivers of liability or the law of assumption of risk in the state.

Do I Need an Attorney for Help with My Health Club Liability Issue?

If you think a health club is liable to you for poor instruction, supervision or training, you want to consult a personal injury attorney. Your attorney can analyze the facts of your case, your contract and any other relevant information. They can then advise you as to whether you have a claim and how to proceed to recover compensation for your losses.

Or, if you are involved with a health club and someone is claiming that you are liable to them for poor instruction or supervision, it is highly recommended that you too consult a personal injury attorney. Only they will be able to properly explain the issues and help protect your rights.

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