Liability Releases

Liability Releases — Gross Negligence

By on December 1, 2015 - Comments off

Woman on Treadmill liability

Jiminez v. 24 Hour Fitness USA, Inc. (Third District, June 9, 2015) 237 Cal.App.4th 546, 188 Cal.Rptr.3d 228, 15 Cal. Daily Op. Serv. 5893, 2015 Daily Journal D.A.R. 6334

A woman filed suit against a fitness center after sustaining a severe head injury when she fell rearward from a moving treadmill and struck her head on a nearby exercise machine. The plaintiff alleged that although the treadmill manufacturer had recommended in the owner’s manual that there should be a clear area behind the treadmill with a minimum space of 6 feet deep by 3 feet wide, the piece of equipment struck by the plaintiff was just under four feet away. The plaintiff further alleged that the defendant’s act of placing other equipment within the safety zone increased the risk of injury, thereby rendering the release unenforceable against a claim of gross negligence.

The defendant moved for summary judgment based upon a liability release in the membership agreement, arguing that its conduct could not be considered grossly negligent. The trial court agreed, finding that as a matter of law, a space of three to four feet as opposed to the recommended six-foot safety zone cannot constitute gross negligence, because it does not reflect an extreme departure from the ordinary standard of conduct, and that the placement of the treadmill constituted at most, ordinary negligence. However, the court of appeal reversed, holding that triable issues of fact remained on the issue of whether the defendant’s conduct amounted to gross negligence: Read the rest »

Posted in: Liability Releases


General Releases: Unnamed Parties

By on June 6, 2013 - Comments off

Rodriguez v. Oto, (Sixth District, January 15, 2013) 212 Cal.App.4th 1020, 151 Cal.Rptr.3d 667, 13 Cal. Daily Op. Serv. 602, 2013 Daily Journal D.A.R. 636

A man who was injured in a collision with a rented automobile retained an attorney the day after the accident, and seven months later reached a settlement releasing the rental car company which owned the other vehicle. The settlement, which was for the vehicle’s policy limit of $25,000, was memorialized with a written release which named the other driver, Hertz, and “all other firms, corporations, associations or partnerships.” Almost two years after the accident the plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the other driver and his employer.

The defendants moved for summary judgment on the basis of the release and the plaintiff opposed the motion, contending that he did not believe that by signing the document he was releasing the other driver’s employer. The trial court granted the motion and the court of appeal affirmed, holding that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying the plaintiff’s request for a continuance to obtain testimony from the claims adjuster: Read the rest »

Posted in: Liability Releases


Liability Releases: Tenant Amenities

By on February 15, 2012 - Comments off

Lewis Operating Corporation v. Superior Court, (Fourth District, November 10, 2011) 132 Cal.Tprt.3d 849, 11 Cal. Daily Op. Serv. 13,810, 2011 Daily Journal D.A.R. 16,468

An apartment resident who was injured while using a treadmill at a ‘tenant-only’ health club/exercise facility filed an action for personal injuries against his landlord and a personal training company. The plaintiff alleged that an employee of the latter had rolled a ball into the treadmill, causing it to flip upward and throw the plaintiff off of the machine.

The defendants moved for summary judgment based upon a ‘release and waiver’ provision in the rental agreement under which tenants assumed all risks of harm arising from use of the health and recreation facilities. The trial court denied the motion, finding that the agreement was unenforceable under Civil Code § 1953, which declares void any provision of a dwelling lease or rental agreement which modifies or waives the tenant or leasee’s right to have the landlord exercise due care to prevent personal injury where that duty is imposed by law. However, the court of appeal issued a peremptory writ of mandate directing the trial court to grant the motion, holding that a landlord’s duty to maintain amenities does not necessarily trigger the application of § 1953:

Read the rest »