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Exculpatory Clause in Contract Relieves Exercise Club of Liability for Injury to Member
Description Appeals court upheld dismissal of a suit brought by a member of a fitness club who suffered a shoulder injury while being evaluated for fitness by club personnel. An exculpatory clause in the membership contract did not violate any of the conditions that invalidate such clauses.
Topic Contracts
Key Words Exculpatory Clause; Liability
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Seigneur joined NFI, a health and fitness facility, to lose weight and become fit. She was in poor physical condition and had back problems that she discussed with NFI personnel. She signed a contract that contained a clause that said NFI was not responsible for injuries she sustained during exercise. Seigneur claimed that she tore a muscle in her shoulder while doing a series of tests to evaluate her physical condition. The doctor who did surgery on the shoulder believed the injury was caused by her use of an upper torso weight machine during the evaluation. She sued NFI for negligence. The trial court granted NFI summary judgment. Seigneur appealed.
Decision Affirmed. Public interest will render an exculpatory clause unenforceable when: (1) the party protected by the clause intentionally causes harm or engages in acts of reckless, wanton, or gross negligence; (2) the bargaining power of one party to the contract is so grossly unequal so as to put that party at the mercy of the other's negligence; and (3) the transaction involves the public interest. The court places itself in the position of the parties at the time they made the contract, so as to view the circumstances at the time and to judge the meaning of the words in the contract in context. None of the three conditions apply in this case, so the clause is upheld and the club is released from liability.
Citation Seigneur v. National Fitness Institute, Inc., 752 A.2d 631 (Ct. App., Md., 2000)

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