Posts Tagged ‘fitness center’

Waiver Saves Fitness Center in PA

Divided court highlights potential waiver pitfalls

Melinda Hinkal found out the hard way that it’s important to read before signing that liability waiver. She, like everyone else who applied to join the gym, was required to sign a waiver before she could begin working out in the facility. After joining, Hinkal claimed that too much weight on the equipment she was using caused a neck injury. It was her contention that the trainer advised her to continue working out even after she complained of pain.

The PA State Superior Court decision ruled she could not sue the gym because the signed waiver stipulates that gym members “assume all risks of personal injury.” However, not all the judges agreed with the ruling. A dissenting judge argued that the waiver agreement “contravenes public policy,” which is intended to protect consumers. The dissenting judge also noted that the waiver didn’t clearly stipulate that personal training sessions were covered.

Would your waiver hold up in court?

This case shows that the outcome of any given case clearly depends on the judge’s interpretation. This case also provides a clear example of some of the points I bring up in “Are Waivers/Releases Worth the Paper on Which They’re Written?” Chief among those points is that courts are more likely to rule in favor of a waiver that was custom written for specific activities and that aims to meet the requirements of your state’s laws.

So, what is a well-written waiver/release? Quite simply, nearly every phrase in every sentence must be written to avoid the pitfalls that resulted in actual rulings against waivers. The above-mentioned article lists 10 common waver risks to avoid.

Waivers and risk management

Given the dissenting opinion and the pitfalls mentioned above, it’s logical to assume that a different panel of judges might have ruled in Hinkal’s favor. So, don’t assume you’ll beat the odds if your waiver comes under scrutiny.

We have many other risk management articles pertinent to health clubs and fitness trainers. And we offer best-in-industry fitness instructor insurance and fitness center insurance at up to 38% savings.

Source: Matt Miller. “Woman signed away her right to sue over injury at Gold’s Gym, divided Pa. court rules,” 29 Jan. 2016.

Arguing Treadmill Safety Standards

Posted | Filed under Health Clubs

And liability releases come into play

A gross negligence lawsuit filed by a member of 24 Hour Fitness is all about the safety standards for treadmills… or the lack thereof.

The plaintiff claims she suffered a severe head injury after falling backwards off a treadmill and hitting another piece of steel equipment. The exercise machine she hit her head on was placed approximately 46 inches from the rear of the treadmill.

24 Hour Fitness argues that the plaintiff signed a liability release and that there is no treadmill safety zone industry standard. However, the plaintiff’s attorneys are countering by citing a section of the treadmill manufacturer’s owner’s manual and safety guidelines, as well as an expert’s statement that the plaintiff was put at risk by the distance between the treadmill and other piece of equipment.

According to ASTM International Standard F2115-05 there should be a clear distance of 20 inches on either side of the treadmill and 39 inches behind the treadmill.

“This standard, while not widely known by club operators, is very well known by the equipment manufacturers and has been effectively used in court cases,” said Steve Tharrett, president of Club Industry Consulting.

The plaintiff  is claiming that her signature on the liability release was fraudulently obtained.

On the day she signed the membership agreement she could neither speak nor read English, according to the suit.  The manager, who could not speak Spanish, showed her the membership fee on the computer screen and made exercise motions, which the plaintiff understood was the price for use of the facility. Since she could only read the numbers in the price, the plaintiff was not aware of the liability release provision included in the membership agreement when she signed.

We offer more articles on fitness center and treadmill safety and encourage you to read “Are Waiver/Releases Worth the Paper They are Written On?”

Source: Eric Stemgren, “Judgment Overturned in 24 Hour Fitness Treadmill Lawsuit,”, 12 June, 2015.