Fitness centres are places where people usually go to get physical. They sweat it out to lose that extra flab. They train hard to gain that much coveted musculature. In the process, many of them usually use equipment that often looks like it can hurt any inexperienced person who dares use it.
Because of all this, most fitness centres make their members sign liability waivers before they admit them to the club. Usually, these waivers are designed to revoke a member’s rights to ask for compensation should they end up being hurt inside the facility.
But, waivers are not really enforceable all the time. Even if they are written in very broad language, their effects can still be overridden by the courts should the judge find that the stipulations are too disadvantageous to the member.
In this article, we present two scenarios where even waivers signed by the injured parties themselves can still be challenged in court.
Scenario 01: Your injury is caused by wilful actions of one of the fitness centre employees
Imagine yourself running full speed on a treadmill. Suddenly, your personal trainer – who has become your close friend – jokingly pushes you, causing you to lose balance, topple over, and ultimately hurt yourself.
In such a case, even if the act was jokingly made, it was still intentional and the outcome was highly preventable (i.e. reasonably forseeable) had the trainer been more careful with their actions. Because the personal trainer is an authorised agent of the fitness centre, you can very well sue the centre for damages.
You see, the centre and its employees have a responsibility (i.e. vicarious liability) to keep you as safe (as reasonably possible) as they can inside their premises. Any wilful action done by them that results in the neglect of this responsibility will surely be punishable by law.
Scenario 02: There are no proper signs that a machine is broken or not fit for use
We pay membership fees to fitness centres believing that they are used for the maintenance of the machines and other equipment we may use whilst there. Of course, any reasonable member will assume that all the machines made available at the time of their visit are in good working condition.
If it so happens that a member gets hurt after using a machine that is not functioning well, the fitness centre can be held liable if they knew of the defects of the machine but they still failed to put a sign to deter anyone from using the faulty equipment.
A similar case has already been documented. Not too long ago, the University of Rhode Island was made to pay at least $32 million in a premises liability case. It was filed by someone who was paralysed after diving into a pond in one of the university’s conference facilities. There were submerged rocks in the pond that made it unfit for swimming, but the university management failed to put proper markings around it.
If you want to learn more about cases of premises liability, there are a lot of comprehensive resources online that you can check.
While waivers protect fitness centres from liability, the protection is never to the point where the members are at a total disadvantage. If you happen to get hurt in a fitness centre, and it is clear to you that someone has to answer for your injury, you may contact a lawyer specialising in premises liability to help you.