Liability Waiver Fitness Center Case Law (California)

In Leon v. Family Fitness Center ( # 107), Inc. (1998) 61 Cal.App.4th 1227, the plaintiff signed a membership agreement with the defendant fitness center containing a liability release. The agreement signed by Leon provided, in relevant part, "'the plaintiff specifically agrees that the defendant, its officers, employees and agents shall not be liable for any claim, demand, cause of action of any kind whatsoever for, or on account of death, personal injury, property damage or loss of any kind resulting from or related to the plaintiff's use of the facilities or participation in any sport, exercise or activity within or without the club premises, and the plaintiff agrees to hold the defendant harmless from same.'" (Leon v. Family Fitness Center ( # 107), Inc., supra, 61 Cal.App.4th at p. 1231.) The plaintiff was injured when a sauna bench on which he was lying collapsed. (Id. at p. 1231.) The appellate court reversed the trial court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the defendant based on the liability release. In Leon v. Family Fitness Center ( # 107), Inc., supra, 61 Cal.App.4th 1227, the court concluded an assumption of the risk applies only to known risks both parties intended would be covered. Under the facts of that case, the plaintiff was deemed to have waived the right to sue for "any hazard known to relate to the use of the health club facilities. These hazards typically include the risk of a sprained ankle due to improper exercise or overexertion, a broken toe from a dropped weight, injuries due to malfunctioning exercise or sports equipment, or from slipping in the locker-room shower. On the other hand, no Family Fitness patron can be charged with realistically appreciating the risk of injury from simply reclining on a sauna bench. Because the collapse of a sauna bench when properly utilized is not a 'known risk,' we conclude Leon cannot be deemed to have assumed the risk of this incident as a matter of law." (Id. at p. 1234.) Further, the court concluded the plaintiff's liability release could apply only if "'"the act of negligence, which results in injury to the releasor, is reasonably related to the object or purpose for which the release is given."' " (Id. at pp. 1234-1235.) Because the defendant's negligence was "not reasonably related to the object or purpose for which the release was given, that is, as stated, injuries resulting from participating in sports or exercise rather than from merely reclining on the facility's furniture," the release did not preclude liability. (Id. at p. 1235.)