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Ericksen Arbuthnot Partner Wins Summary Judgment in Health Club Case

– By Joseph J. Minioza

Joseph J. (JJ) Minioza recently prevailed in an appeal of a trial court order granting his motion for summary judgment in a case filed in Contra Costa County Superior Court. The plaintiff slipped and fell in a health club's locker room and claimed injuries to her knee and aggravation of a prior back injury. She sought damages for past medical expenses and another $200,000 in future back surgery. Plaintiff's demand before mediation was $500,000. Our client, the health club, offered $45,000 to settle the case. Our motion for summary judgment was granted by the trial court, based on a waiver and release provision in the membership agreement.

As Mr. Minioza successfully argued, waiver and release agreements are effective to protect health clubs against claims for injuries its members may sustain on premises. In the case of Benedek v. PLC Santa Monica (2002) 104 Cal.App.4th 1351, 129 Cal.Rptr.2d 197, the plaintiff signed a health club membership agreement which contained a waiver of liability. The waiver of liability released the health club from liability for all personal injuries sustained by a member on the premises “whether using exercise equipment or not.”

Since the plaintiff in that case suffered personal injuries on the club's premises, but not while using the exercise equipment, the court concluded the express and unambiguous language of the release applied to excuse the health club from all liability which did not arise from use of the exercise equipment. The court affirmed the summary judgment in favor of the health club.

Mr. Minioza was able to utilize the Benedek case and other authorities cited in his summary judgment motion to obtain a judgment in his client's favor. The ruling was upheld on appeal, affirming the validity of properly worded waivers in membership agreements.

JJ Minioza can be reached at 510.832.7770 or .