Many individuals sign releases or waivers without reading the fine print. However, the terms of the policy matter, since signing a release waiver may give up someone’s right to sue if they are injured.
In a recent case, Ketler v. PFPA, LLC, a gym member brought suit against Planet Fitness. In April 2013, the man was injured while using exercise equipment at a Planet Fitness facility. A cable broke on a seated rowing machine that he was using, injuring him. He alleged that the injuries were the result of Planet Fitness’ negligence in maintaining its equipment. However, Planet Fitness argued that his claim was barred because he signed a waiver when he signed up for the gym.
The waiver that he signed stated, “I understand and expressly agree that my use of this Planet Fitness facility . . . involves the risk of injury to me or my guest whether caused by me or not. I understand that these risks can range from minor injuries to major injuries including death.” It also stated, “I understand and voluntarily accept this risk and agree that Planet Fitness . . . will not be liable for any injury . . . resulting from the negligence of Planet Fitness . . . whether related to exercise or not.”
The court found that the release was permitted under that state’s law because the release was unambiguous, not unconscionable, and not against public policy. First, the court stated that the language of the release was clear. It also said the release was not unconscionable, since the plaintiff could have walked away from the contract by not becoming a member of Planet Fitness. Finally, the release did not violate public policy, since that state’s law did not ban a waiver of future negligence. For that reason, the court found that the claim was barred because of the release of liability.
Waivers of Liability
A waiver, or release of liability, allows a party to avoid liability for its own negligence. A liability waiver is a document that a person signs, acknowledging the risks involved in his or her participation in an activity. However, not all waivers are valid. A waiver may be invalid because it is prohibited by state law or because it goes against the public interest. For example, some courts have found waivers invalid when a contract exempted childcare providers from their own negligence, and when a contract released a landlord’s liability for injuries resulting from his own negligence. Also, a contract may be invalid if a person or facility acted fraudulently or intentionally, or if a contract rewards or supports illegal conduct.
Have You Been Injured After Signing a Waiver?
If you have been injured while exercising or participating in a pay-to-play activity, even if you signed a waiver, you still may be able to file a claim against the facility. You may be entitled to monetary compensation for your injuries and should speak to a dedicated Illinois personal injury attorney. At Moll Law Group, our Chicago premises liability lawyers represent people who have been involved in devastating accidents and families who have lost loved ones. We have represented consumers for decades and billions of dollars have been recovered in cases in which we were involved. Call us at 312-462-1700 or fill out our consultation form to set up a free initial consultation.
See More Posts:
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Safer Technologies in Cars, But Not For Everyone, Illinois Injury Lawyer Blog, February 2, 2016.
Illinois Protects Police with Partial Immunity in Police Misconduct Cases, Illinois Injury Lawyer Blog, January 16, 2016.