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New Jersey Supreme Court decision…

Joe Hassinger has the report on an important new  New Jersey Supreme Court decision affirming an order granting Summary Judgment  to Powerhouse Gym based on an exculpatory agreement  in a membership contract. The form stated, in part, that the member assumed all risks of negligence on the part of the gym, including injury from malfunctioning equipment. The same day that the plaintiff signed the contract, she was injured on a spinning bike when the handlebars dislodged from the bike. The trial court granted Summary Judgment and the Appellate Division affirmed in a published opinion (408 N.J.Super. 435.)
In a 5-2 decision, the Supreme Court affirmed based on a balancing of public interest considerations.
In the process, the Court  redefined the duty owed by a gym/fitness center to its members.
Although there is public interest in holding a health club to its general common law duty to business
invitees, the Court ruled that it need not ensure the safety of its patrons who voluntarily assume some risk by engaging in strenuous physical activities that have the potential to result in injuries.
The Court ruled at page 33-34:
“Specifically, we hold such business owners to a standard of care congruent with the nature of their business, which is to make available the specialized equipment and facility to their invitees who are there to exercise, train, and to push their physical limits. That is, we impose a duty not to engage in reckless or gross negligence.”
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