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What Potential Injuries is a Gym Member Assuming the Risk for When They Sign the Membership Agreement?

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Attorney Tom MetierThe Colorado Court of Appeals answered that question in Wendy-Jane Stone v. Life Time Fitness, (2016 COA 189).

Wendy-Jane Stone (“Stone”) appealed the summary judgment granted in favor of Life Time Fitness (“Life Time”) in a negligence and Premises Liability Act (“PLA”) claim arising out of injuries Stone sustained at the gym. The issue on appeal is whether the district court correctly ruled that Stone’s claims were barred based on assumption of risk language contained in the agreement she signed when she became a member of Life Time.

Stone was a member of Life Time fitness club. She was hurt in the women’s locker room; she washed her hands at a sink and then turned to leave when she tripped on the blow dryer cord that was hanging to the floor under the sink. She caught her foot in the cord and fell to the ground, fracturing her ankle. Stone alleged that allowing the blow dryer cord to hang below the sink counter constituted a trip hazard and a dangerous condition and that, by allowing the condition to exist, Life Time failed to exercise reasonable care. She asserted a general negligence claim and a claim under Colorado’s PLA.

Life Time moved for summary judgment, saying Stone signed an agreement when she joined Life Time that released them from liability. Life Time argued that the agreement was valid and enforceable, that it expressly covered the type and of injuries, and that it therefore barred Stone’s claims as a matter of law. The district court agreed and granted Life Time summary judgment.

In her appeal, Stone argues that the exculpatory clauses do not clearly apply to her injuries incurred after washing her hands in the women’s locker room. The language applies to injuries that could be sustained on the workout equipment. Determining the validity of an exculpatory agreement is a question of law for the court. After extensive examination of the four factors from a 1981 Colorado Supreme Court case Jones v. Dressel, which determined the validity of an exculpatory agreement, the court agrees with Stone. The judgment on Stone’s negligence claim was affirmed, the judgment on her PLA claim was reversed, and the case was remanded for further proceedings on that claim.

The Metier Law Firm is committed to assisting people with personal injury claims throughout Colorado, Wyoming and Nebraska, and we frequently serve as co-counsel to law firms nationwide. Tom Metier recently secured the largest personal injury verdict in Colorado.