Most health clubs require that their patrons sign a liability waiver before joining, and while gyms may help make members muscles stronger, they are doing nothing to strengthen members positions in the event of injury.
Six and a half years ago, Gina Stelluti, a member of the former Powerhouse Gym in Brick Township, was injured while riding a faulty bicycle during a spin class, less than an hour after purchasing her membership. Ms. Stelluti sued the club, claiming negligence of proper maintenance and lack of training on how to use the equipment.
But in August of this year, by a 5-2 vote, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled the gym not liable, accepting a finding that Ms. Stelluti had read and understood the waiver before signing. Among other conditions, the form stated a release of liability by the club for “the sudden and unforseen malfunctioning of any equipment.”
Last summer, a lower court ruled that the signed waiver agreement was enforceable. Stelluti appealed that decision, leading to the Supreme Courts ruling.
It is important to note, however, that waivers do not protect against reckless or gross negligence, such as hazards that lead to repeat injuries or failure to clean up broken glass.