Thursday, May 6, 2021

Fitness Club's Exculpatory Clause Upheld to Defeat Plaintiff's Personal Injury Claim


In the case of Cifarelli v. RKKB Capital Partners Corp., No. 9626-CV-2019 (C.P. Monroe Co. March 1, 2021 Zulick, J.), the court granted a Defendant fitness facility’s Motion for Summary Judgment in a matter in which a Plaintiff fell while using a treadmill.

According to the Opinion, the Plaintiff was using a treadmill when the treadmill mat slipped off its track, causing the Plaintiff to fall and suffer injuries.   


The Plaintiff filed suit against the gym. In its Answer and New Matter, the gym raised a defense of a release. 


According to the Opinion, the Plaintiff had signed a membership agreement in which she agreed to release the fitness center from liability for injuries she suffered on the premises due to negligence.   



Judge Zulick noted that, in a number of cases involving fitness club agreements, the Pennsylvania appellate courts have consistently held that exculpatory provisions violate public policy only when they involved a matter of interest to the public or the state.   The court cited examples such as cases involving employer/employee relationships, public utilities, common carriers, and hospital. 


The court noted that the Plaintiff had signed a membership agreement for a gym or health club.  The court noted that the Plaintiff was free to refuse to sign the release and to look elsewhere for fitness activities.   


By signing the agreement, the Plaintiff agreed that she understood that she was giving up important legal rights and that the contract would be a full release of liability for injury.   


The court also rejected the Plaintiff’s attempt to get around the release by arguing reckless conduct.   While the court agreed that an attempt in a release to avoid liability for reckless conduct is not enforcement as a violation of public policy in Pennsylvania, the case at hand did not contain facts supporting a claim of reckless conduct.  


As such, the Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment was granted.   


Anyone wishing to review a copy of this decision may click this LINK


Source: “Digest of Recent Opinions.” Pennsylvania Law Weekly (March 23, 2021). 


I also send thanks to Attorney Daniel D. Stofko of the Scranton, PA office of Margolis Edelstein for bringing this case to my attention.



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