Working out at a gym is usually good for your health, but not always. Perhaps you lifted more weight than you could handle. Or a piece of strength training equipment malfunctioned. Or the gym staff failed to instruct or spot you properly. Can you hold the gym owners or others liable for damages?
There have been many cases in which plaintiffs have successfully sued gyms, sports clubs, Pilates studios and other exercise facilities for their injuries. Even if the gym owners were not aware of an unsafe condition, they may be liable if proper inspection would have uncovered it. Sometimes you may also be able to bring a product liability lawsuit against companies and individuals responsible for the design, manufacture, sale or distribution of a potentially dangerous exercise machine or its components.
Equipment malfunctions are not the only basis for gym liability. You may be able to sue a gym for poor instruction or supervision. If an unqualified staff member imposed excessive demands, provided improper instruction or did not warn of potential risks, the gym itself could be liable for muscle injuries or other harm.
One hurdle to overcome is the liability waiver that most gym members must sign when they join, promising not to sue if they are injured at the gym. Fortunately, in New York, these waivers are unenforceable in many instances. New York General Obligations Law Section 5-326 makes waivers of liability for gym related injuries void if three conditions are met:
1) The gym membership agreement is entered into between you and the owner or operator of the gym; and
2) The liability waiver in question attempts to exempt the owner and operator from liability for their own negligence (or that of their agents or employees); and
3) The owner and operator of the gym receives a fee in connection with your use of the facilities (i.e. membership or use fees).
If these three conditions are met, your gym, be it New York Sports, Equinox, Crunch, or any other gym of which you are a paying member, cannot avoid liability if you are injured as a result of their negligence. These waivers are included in the membership agreements the gym has you sign, even though the gym knows full well the waiver is likely not enforceable, in hopes that you will refrain from suing believing that the waiver is valid.
If you are injured, you should immediately report the incident to the gym and ask for a copy of any report prepared by the gym staff. You can show that document, along with any photographs you may have of any equipment involved, to a lawyer. Contacting an experienced personal injury attorney can help you decide if you have a case to pursue.