Many gyms and sports clubs have their members sign a “release” when joining. Some facilities, such as ice and roller rinks, have you sign a release before you put-on your skates.
Many injured people forgo a lawsuit based upon these alleged releases. They should not. These pre-accident releases are invalid and cannot bar a negligence lawsuit.
We have handled many cases where our clients were injured during athletic or recreational acitivities. If you have been injured please call me at 800-581-1434 for a free consultation.
There is a state law, General Obligations Law sec. 5-326, which states that such a release or waiver is invalid as follows:
Every covenant, agreement, or understanding in or in connection with, or collateral to any contract, membership,application, ticket of admission or similar writing, entered into between the owner or operator of any pool, gymnasium, place of amusement or recreation, or similar establishment and the user of such facility, pursuant to which such owner or operator receives a fee or other compensation for the use of such facilities, which exempts the said owner or operator from liability for damages caused by or resulting from the negligence of the owner, operator, or person in charge of such establish, or their agents, servants or employees, shall be deemed to be void as against public policy and wholly enforceable.
There is a recent case which discusses the effect of a pre-accident release. A skydiving school sought dismissal on the ground that the participant signed a release before skydiving. The injured person received a skydiving lesson as a birthday gift from her husband. She went to Skydive The Ranch and signed a release before starting her lesson. She took a tandem parachute jump; this is a jump where teacher and student are attached to another. When she jumped her parachute did not open. Her instructor quickly deployed the reserve parachute in time, however, the student sustained fractures to her fingers during this maneuver. The injured student sued the school, and the school asserted the pre-accident release as a defense. The court ruled that the release had no effect and was unenforceable.
Therefore, if you are presented with a release or waiver of liability of liability form when joining a club or before engaging in an activity, this purported release will not bar you from seeking recovery in the courts in the event that you are injured.
If you have been injured in an athletic activity or sport, please feel free to call me at 800-581-1434.
Mark E. Seitelman, 2/4/09, www.seitelman.com.