Behind the Scenes

The Power of Your Club's Liability Waiver Depends on the Judge

It seems like a lawsuit surfaces every other week involving the liability waivers members sign to join health clubs.

Here are just two cases we've covered so far this year:

In Georgia, Charmaine Johnson had all 10 of her toes and portions of her feet amputated as a result of injuries sustained after passing out in an LA Fitness sauna. Her lawsuit is currently in the discovery phase, and LA Fitness has denied allegations of negligence, citing the liability waiver.

In California, an appellate court reversed a lower court's summary judgment in favor of 24 Hour Fitness in a case involving a treadmill injury where a member hit her head after falling from a treadmill. In that case, the plaintiff claimed her signature on the liability release was obtained through fraud and misrepresentation as a result of a language barrier.

Why am I bringing this up? Well, I was at the Athletic Business Conference & Expo in New Orleans two weeks ago and had a chance to talk with Sports & Fitness Insurance Corporation National Accounts Manager Jennifer Urmston. She is an expert in this field, and we discussed some recent cases. We also discussed the upcoming December Resourcebeat issue on insurance and liability.

She explained how some club owners believe signed waivers will provide absolute legal protection in the event of a member injury.

That perception is not always reality, Urmston said.

Although having a strong liability waiver is important, no one-size-fits-all approach exists that will protect businesses in every case, she said. Cases always begin in local jurisdictions, and how a waiver is interpreted can vary by each judge. This is why a regular review of your club's liability waiver with a legal expert is an important practice.

Urmston is passionate about liability waiver issues, and you will be able to read her perspective on the topic in Resourcebeat. You can sign up for Resourcebeat and manage your Club Industry newsletter subscriptions here.

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