Caveat Lector: Read Before You Play

It’s a simple task, but how often do people read their entire gym membership agreement before they sign their name on the dotted line and head to the gym?

My guess is that people rarely bother to read such agreements due to a variety of reasons that include a lack of interest, lack of time, or they simply don’t care. However, as indicated in the appellate decision below, these agreements can have a tremendous impact on your ability to recover damages if you are injured due to the negligence of another.

This week, the California Court of Appeal in San Diego unanimously reversed a jury verdict that had granted the plaintiff $1.8 million in damages. In that case, Finely v. Club One Inc., the plaintiff had sued the gym Club One Inc. after the plaintiff suffered an ankle injury after a janitorial employee had inadvertently applied an improper floor cleaner to the basketball court. However, prior to the plaintiff’s injury he had signed a membership agreement that contained a “Waiver of Claims/Arbitration” provision, which was intended to limit the liability of the gym.

The trial court ruled that the provision did NOT meet the requirements of a liability waiver provision, noting that the release was internally inconsistent and ambiguous. The law requires that the document be clear, explicit, and comprehensible to a layperson. Unfortunately, the Court of Appeal overruled and found that the agreement actually met the legal requirements for a valid waiver. Specifically, it stated that despite the small font size, it was not inconspicuously buried in other provision nor was it ambiguous. Interested in looking at the agreement? Click HERE for a picture of the agreement and you can be the judge.

This case serves a cautionary tale to read agreements before you sign them, especially one where the risk of injury is possible or likely. Thanks for reading Slice of Appel PI today and we hope you continue to read and share our blog with others. And remember, Caveat Lector!

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