Spinning Your Wheels: NJ Upholds Pre-Injury Sports Waiver

The recreational industry has boomed in the last decade. The local gym is a place where people work out, socialize and try to keep father time at bay. Given the exploding number gym memberships and the inherent risk of injury when using treadmills, ellliptical, cybex and other machines, it is no wonder that the industry has attempted to limit its liability when a member is injured during a club sponsored activity.

Just how far can a gym or athletic club go in limiting its liability? Will courts enforce a pre-injury waiver exculpating the gym from the gym’s ordinary negligence?

The New Jersey Supreme Court upheld the terms of a waiver and release in Stelluti v. Casapenn Enterprises, LLC, d/b/a Powerhouse Gym. Gina Stelluti joined a local gym and signed a comprehensive “Waiver & Release” form. She was later injured during a spinning class where the participants use stationary bicycles to simulate an actual ride on a variety of terrains. The court upheld the validity of the waiver and release and dismissed plaintiff’s complaint in its entirety. In a broadly written opinion, the New Jersey Supreme Court permitted the gym to protect itself from claims of ordinary neglgience — but not willful conduct or gross negligence — because of its comprehensively worded release.

When attempting to limit their liability, gyms and other sports venues should draft comprehensive forms that make clear that members assume all risks of injury when working out at the club’s facilities. The release and wavier form should make clear that the risks assumed not only include those inherent in the activity but also the alleged negligence of the club itself.

If you have any questions or comments about this post, please email Paul at pclark@wcmlaw.com

http://www.judiciary.state.nj.us/opinions/supreme/A4309StellutivCasapennEnterprises.pdf