Make Your Waiver Broad
Doyice J. Cotten
Read on to find out how this case may be relevant to your fitness center, and how you can protect your own facility from this type of lawsuit.
What the waiver saidThe waiver stated, "The SPA and HOTEL ... shall not be liable — and the MEMBER hereby expressly waives any claim of liability — for personal/bodily injury or damages — which occur to any MEMBER, or any guest of any MEMBER, or for any loss of or injury to person or property. This waiver includes, but is not limited to, any loss, damage or destruction of the personal property of the MEMBER or the MEMBERS' guest(s) and is intended to be a complete release of any responsibility for personal injuries and/or property loss/damage sustained by any MEMBER or any guest of any MEMBER while on the HOTEL and/or SPA premises, whether using exercise equipment or not."
The court considering the Jones appeal stated that the exact release had been challenged in Benedek v. PLC Santa Monica (2002) 104 Cal. App. 4th 1351, and had been held to be clear, unambiguous and explicit in expressing the intent of the subscribing parties. The Benedek court stated that if a release of all liability is given, the release applies to any negligence of the defendant, and that it is only necessary that the negligence resulting in injury be reasonably related to the object or purpose for which the release is given. The Benedek court further ruled that the waiver released Loews from liability while on the premises, whether using the equipment or not. The court went on to say that a waiver of all premises liability in consideration for permission to enter a recreational facility for any purpose does not violate public policy.
The Jones court, in applying the Benedek ruling, held that the waiver was clear, unambiguous and explicit in its purpose, and effectively releases Loews from liability for negligence while Jones is on the premises.
Risk management principlesHere are some guidelines for protecting your own fitness center.
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