Why does health club agreement waive my litigation rights?
June 21, 2014 11:30 AM   Subscribe

The "health club" in my apt. building (some free weights, a few weight machines, treadmills, ellipticals) requires tenants to sign an agreement, the first two clauses of which involve litigation: The first says, paraphrasing, I hereby release, waive, discharge and covenant not to sue the management co., owners, employees, etc. from all liability to me and anyone with me for any loss or damage on account of my injury or death caused by the exercise equipment, negligence of the company, etc.

The second says that I agree to indemnify and hold harmless the company from any loss, liability, damage, cost or expense, including attorneys fees, that they may incur due to any such loss, damage, etc.

Aside from how off-putting I find them, are such clauses binding/legal? Am I really waiving my right to litigate if the ceiling falls on me while the treadmill I'm on bursts into flame? Or is this like the "management is not responsible for..." signs that are all bluff because they actually are responsible?
posted by the sobsister to Law & Government (9 answers total)
That sounds pretty normal to me. What if you dropped a 15 lb. hand weight on your foot and sued them?
posted by destructive cactus at 11:36 AM on June 21, 2014

The laws vary from state to state, but in general you cannot waive your right to recover from gross negligence. There are a number of other nuances mostly revolving around the ability of both sides to bargain, but as a rule it is possible to waive your right to recover for ordinary negligence but not possible to waive recovery for gross negligence.
posted by Lame_username at 11:44 AM on June 21, 2014 [4 favorites]

I agree, that sounds pretty normal for this type of situation. You also have the right to not use the facility if this doesn't sit well with you.
posted by HuronBob at 12:01 PM on June 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

This is an express assumption of risk. The enforceability of it will depend on your jurisdiction and the specifics of any claim. Here's an article with an overview.
posted by melissasaurus at 12:04 PM on June 21, 2014 [3 favorites]

Each state has a different rule as to enforceability of these kinds of provisions. In many states, a provision absolving the facility from liability when it alone is negligent is unenforceable.

The manifest intent of these clauses, as stated above, is to make it clear that you are the one who has the sole responsibility to decide if you can use a particular piece of equipment safely. You assume the risk if you decide wrong. Most states will enforce this kind of language, to that extent.
posted by megatherium at 12:10 PM on June 21, 2014 [3 favorites]

When my local yoga studio instituted a similar clause (albeit a slightly less scary one, e.g. no requirement to indemnify attorneys' fees), I websearched and found a discussion of such clauses, by yoga studio owners, for yoga studio owners. My memory is that it basically said: "Yeah, more and more insurance companies are making us do this; it does make you safer from frivolous lawsuits, but if you or your instructors seriously screw up, you're still liable."

I went ahead and signed the agreement.
posted by feral_goldfish at 1:29 PM on June 21, 2014

Thanks to all respondents. I get that suing the company if I hurt myself by lifting an inappropriately heavy weight is a non-starter. What troubled me was that I seemed to be indemnifying the operators from litigation even in cases of their negligence as well as indemnifying them from any losses or damages I might receive even were I able to sue them. I guess what surprised me was that, while I'm used to signing the "I acknowledge that I'm healthy enough to use the facility"-type contract with a gym, I hadn't encountered, to my knowledge, a contract in which I waive the right to sue in any foreseeable case.
posted by the sobsister at 1:30 PM on June 21, 2014

Thank you melissasaurus; that was a very interesting article!
posted by Juffo-Wup at 5:29 PM on June 21, 2014

I can't comment on whether it's legally binding, but I've had to sign a waiver like that for anything remotely physical I've ever done. Gyms, recreational sports, outdoor activities, even riding a mechanical bull. I think the idea is to remind people that accidental injuries can happen, and discourage people from thinking about lawsuits if they get injured from something that was not negligence.
posted by randomnity at 9:16 AM on June 22, 2014

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