Similar to most business institutions, an operator of a gym or health club owes a duty of reasonable care to members while they are on the premises. For example the staff who are employed at the gym are required to inspect the facilities and equipment for any conditions which may pose a danger to visiting members.
Pursuant to a tort legal principle, negligence, a business operator who fails to warn visiting members of dangerous conditions on the premises may be held legally responsible for any injuries which are suffered by its members as a result of the dangerous conditions. In order for a gym goer to recover under a negligence theory, they would be required to prove that the operator of the gym or health club facility failed to inspect the premises, which then led to their injury.
There is, however, one issue which frequently arises when a gym member attempts to hold the gym accountable for their injuries suffered on the premises. This is that the majority of gym and health club facilities require that members sign waivers or liability release forms.
In many cases, these waivers and liability release forms contain provisions which state that members will use the facility at their own risk. Additionally, some waiver liability forms also include statements that limit a member’s ability to use the gym operator for any injuries they sustain on the premises.
Therefore, it is very important for a gym user to review any waiver form carefully before signing it. Although a liability release form may limit an individual’s ability to file a lawsuit, it cannot be used to release a gym owner from the duty of care which they owe to members under the law.
What is Health Club Liability?
In recent years, the number of individuals who join gyms and health clubs has risen exponentially. With this increase in attendance comes a growing number of personal injuries to their users, whether due to:
- The condition of the premises or equipment;
- The quality of instruction or supervision provided by personnel of the establishment; or
- The inexperience or poor physical condition of the users themselves.
What is Health Club Instruction Liability?
People are more active today than they have ever been before. Because of this, many individuals are turning to facilities for exercise, including:
- Health clubs;
- Fitness or athletic centers; or
- Private gyms.
As noted above, health clubs may be open to various liabilities, especially under the theory of negligence. One area that a health club may find itself liable for is the quality of instruction or supervision they provide.
A health club will often have employees who work closely with health club patrons, including:
- Personal trainers;
- Class instructors; or
- Facility supervisors.
These individuals may lead classes or provide advice regarding fitness techniques. In many cases, a health club may be liable for the actions of an instructor or supervisor under the legal theory of vicarious liability.
What about Injuries Caused by Defects in the Premises?
As previously noted, similar to any other business establishment, the proprietor of a health club or health spa owes members a duty of reasonable care to inspect the premises in order to discover dangerous conditions as well as to correct such conditions or warn individuals of the danger.
One common cause of injuries on the premises of a health club, spa, or similar establishment is a slippery floor or slippery steps. Factors which determine liability in these types of cases include:
- The nature and use of the area in which the surface is located;
- Whether the patron was aware of the condition, and
- The proprietor’s acts or omissions in creating or attempting to remedy the condition.
What are Typical Health Club Injuries from Poor Instruction?
Typical examples of injuries that may occur as a result of poor instruction or supervision include:
- Muscular or skeletal strains;
- Cardiovascular problems;
- Increased anxiety;
- Mental suffering;
- Collision accidents; and
- Other medical conditions.
Injuries which result from poor quality instruction or improper supervision have also been extended to include a negligent recommendation of a diet or work-out plan.
What are the Factors that May Show Instructor Liability?
When a court is determining the outcome of a lawsuit for poor quality of instruction or supervision, it will take into consideration many factors, including:
- The patron’s age, maturity, experience, ability level, and physical condition;
- If the activity involved required a warm-up;
- If the activity was one that the patron would likely be qualified to participate in;
- If the patron was warned of any possible risks;
- If the instructor or supervisor demonstrated the activity to the patron themselves; or
- What guidelines, authority, or education an instructor or supervisor was working with.
What is a Spa Accident?
A spa is a location where health treatments and medicinal baths are provided. Spas may be referred to by other titles, including:
- Spa resorts;
- Spa towns; or
- Day spas.
Many of these locations involve special waters included in a tub or jacuzzi to provide the bath, such as:
- Mineral water;
- Spring water; or
These establishments also typically offer other treatments, including:
- Manicures; and
- Other services.
Because of the nature of the services which are offered at spa establishments, they may, in some cases, be associated with various types of injuries, which may include:
- Hot tub drowning incidents;
- Slip and fall incidents, especially due to wet areas;
- Skin infections and allergic reactions to materials used in treatments;
- Negligence or inappropriate conduct of a staff member;
- Burns from hot water; and
- Various other accidents and injuries.
How is Spa Liability for an Injury Determined?
In a case where an injury occurs at a spa establishment, the business may be held liable for the accident based on negligence. The injured individuals would be required to prove:
- The spa owed them a duty of care;
- The spa breached that duty of care; and
- That breach of duty was the cause of their injuries.
In some cases, an individual may be able to recover for an injury at a spa based on product liability. For example, if a product or hot tub failed due to a product defect.
The spa may also be held partially liable in such cases if they were aware that a product was dangerous or defective, yet continued to use it in their treatments.
What Should I Watch for in a Health Spa Contract?
As with any type of commercial contract, an individual should consider a health spa contract very carefully. The majority of spas and their representatives may want an individual to sign up immediately and will offer incentives and put on pressure.
It is, however, always best for an individual to shop around and make the best decision for themselves. It is important to read any contract prior to signing and be on the lookout for these issues:
- Each incentive and promise of the salesperson is included in the contract;
- Early termination or reconsideration fees;
- Cancellation and refunds;
- Temporary membership or length of membership;
- Open hours;
- Guest passes or members allowed per card;
- Trial periods;
- Renewal fees;
- Renewal procedures and disclosures;
- Instructor qualifications; and
- Liabilities of injuries at spa.
Is There Any Way I Can Check on a Health Spa’s Record?
Yes, an individual can check on the record of a health spa with a local consumer protection agency or the Better Business Bureau. These entities will have information regarding the company’s past history and any complaints.
Do I Need an Attorney?
It may be very helpful to consult with a contract attorney if you feel you have been treated unfairly or something is wrong with your health spa contract. In addition, if you have been injured at a health club, you should speak with a lawyer as soon as possible.