Earlier this month, an appellate court in California heard a premises liability case involving an injury that occurred in a gym. In the case, Jimenez v. 24 Hour Fitness USA, the plaintiff was injured while running on a treadmill in one of the defendant’s gym locations.
Evidently, the plaintiff fell backwards off the treadmill, and as she fell she hit her head on an exposed steel foot of another exercise machine that was placed less than four feet away from the rear of the treadmill. She ended up fracturing the right occipital and right temporal bones in her skull.
At trial, the plaintiff’s theory was that the gym was negligent for placing other machinery so close to the rear of the treadmill. To support her claim, she submitted the user’s manual of the treadmill into evidence, since it recommended that an area of six feet be left behind the treadmill for user safety.
In response, the defendant gym claimed that the plaintiff waived any right to sue them for their own negligence when she signed the release form given to her when she signed up for a membership. However, the plaintiff’s argument in response was that, as a Spanish speaker, she did not understand the agreement as written, and the defendant gym made no effort to ask a Spanish-speaking employee to translate it for her.
The lower court granted the defendant gym’s motion for summary judgment, meaning that the case was never heard on the merits. In turn, the plaintiff appealed.
On Appeal, the Plaintiff Is Successful
The appellate court determined that the waiver-release form was not valid as presented to the plaintiff. The court noted that the English-speaking employee pointed to the figure “$24.99” and then pumped his arms as though he was lifting weights. The court determined that this would give any reasonable non-English speaking person the idea that if they paid $24.99 they would be able to lift weights in the facility. There was no discussion of what other rights the plaintiff would be giving up by signing the form. The court determined that a jury may have found that the employee’s behavior was misleading to the plaintiff, who never had a chance to read or understand the release she signed.
The court then moved on to the issue of whether a judge or jury could have found that the defendant gym was grossly negligent in the placement of the other machinery so close to the treadmills. The court looked to the treadmill’s owners manual and determined that someone may believe that the gym was negligent for not following the recommendations in the manual. The court then reversed the decision of the lower court and allowed the plaintiff’s case to proceed to trial.
Have You Been Injured in a DC Premises Liability Accident?
If you or a loved one has recently been involved in any kind of Washington DC premises liability accident, you may be entitled to monetary damages to help compensate you for your injuries and losses. To learn more about this area of law, and to discuss your case with an experienced attorney, call 410-654-3600 to set up a free consultation. Calling is free, and you will not be billed unless we are able to recover for you.
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Maryland Appellate Court Defines Limitations on Injury Victims’ Insurance Coverage, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, May 1, 2015
Tyson Meat Company Recalls 15,000 Pounds of Contaminated Ground Beef Over E. Coli Concerns, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, June 10, 2015