In the case of Schneeloch v. Glastonbury Fitness & Wellness, Inc., the plaintiff was injured during a bosu cardio class at Healthtrax in Glastonbury, Connecticut, and sued the gym for damages. The gym defended the lawsuit on the ground that the plaintiff signed a liability waiver, and moved for summary judgment. The waiver at issue stated, in relevant part:
I voluntarily assume the risk of injury, accident, death, loss, cost or damage to my person or property which might arise from my use of the Center and I release the Center from any and all claims and liabilities resulting from the ordinary negligence of the Center…
The court held that the liability waiver was invalid, and contrary to public policy. To arrive at its decision, the court considered the following factors:
- Although the “Buyer’s Right to Cancel” was printed in 1o-point, bold font, as required by Connecticut law, the waiver was about half of that size
- The gym’s waiver refers to “ordinary negligence, a standard found to be confusing and vague
- As the gym was the party providing instruction, with greater expertise than its members, it was the gym that had the opportunity to foresee and control hazards
- The gym’s membership agreement was a form contract, with little opportunity for bargaining
In the context of recreational activities, the court in Schneeloch held that excusing potential negligence of gyms conflicts with the public policy of encouraging participation in athletics. Both individuals and gym owners alike should take notice that a contract – especially a liability waiver – is not always set in stone.