Is a gym waiver legally binding?
Which parts of a gym waiver are enforceable depends on the language of the waiver and the facts of the injury.
Two common clauses in gym waivers include liability waivers and assumption of risk clauses. A liability waiver is a contract between the gym and the person signing up for a gym membership. In it, the new gym member agrees not to hold the gym or its employees liable even if their negligence causes the gym member’s injuries.
An assumption of risk clause states that the gym member assumes the risk of foreseeable injuries that can result from using the gym facilities. If a foreseeable injury occurs, the gym can argue in court that it shouldn’t be held liable because the gym member assumed the risk of that type of injury.
Neither of these clauses automatically protects the gym from all liability in all instances, however. South Carolina law requires liability waivers to state clearly that their purpose is to protect the gym from negligence claims by the gym member who signs the waiver, even if that gym member is injured due to the gym’s negligence. Without this clear language, a state court may rule that the waiver does not apply, and the negligence case can proceed.
South Carolina also limits the scope of liability waivers. The waiver cannot protect the gym from any possible lawsuit related to negligence. Instead, the waiver must be more narrowly focused. For instance, a liability waiver might protect the gym from negligence claims related to the maintenance of gym equipment. If an injury occurs due to negligent maintenance of the gym’s staircases, however, the injured person may still have a valid claim.
Assumption of risk is often limited as well. An assumption of risk clause generally applies only to “foreseeable” risks or injury risks the gym member can reasonably predict. For example, a new gym member might reasonably predict that they might be injured by spraining a muscle or dropping a weight on their foot. Assumption of risk clauses are less likely to apply when a risk is hidden, when only the gym knows about it, or when the risk is not a foreseeable risk of gym use.
Determining whether a waiver applies to a certain injury can be complex. An experienced attorney can help.
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