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Did you sign a liability waiver when you signed up for a gym membership?

If you have ever signed up for a gym or health club, chances are you also signed a liability waiver, waiving your ability to later bring a claim against the facility if you got hurt due to the facility’s negligence. According to WFAA Channel 8, several customers injured at a trampoline park in Texas are finding it difficult to recover any compensation for their injuries. The trampoline park asserted the legal defense that because these customers signed liability waivers, the customers’ claims against it are limited. Signing waivers and releases are considered contractual in nature, and generally upheld by Massachusetts Courts. A few examples of this are the cases Lee v. Allied Sports Assocs., and Sharon v. City of Newton. However, there are exceptions to their validity.

According to M.G.L. ch. 93, §80, “No contract for health club services may contain any provisions whereby the buyer agrees not to assert against the seller or any assignee or transferee of the health club services contract any claim or defense arising out of the health club services contract or the buyer’s activities at the health club.” While many gym or health clubs continue to have these waivers embedded into their contracts, liability waivers that bar you from bringing such claims against health club services are actually unenforceable.

In the landlord-tenant context, waivers for the landlord’s failure to provide for the tenant “…water, hot water, heat, light, power, gas, elevator service, telephone service, janitor service or refrigeration service to any occupant of such building or part thereof…” or landlord’s other wrongful acts are unenforceable pursuant to M.G.L ch. 186, §14. This statute explicitly states “Any waiver of this provision in any lease or other rental agreement…shall be void and unenforceable.”

In Massachusetts, owners and operators of parking facilities are also limited in their ability to contract out their liability in tort cases. According to M.G.L. ch. 231, §85M, “…it shall not constitute a defense that said owner or operator, by means of language appearing on any sign, ticket, or receipt, sought to disclaim, limit or exclude his legal liability. Any such disclaimer, limitation or exclusion of liability shall be void as against public policy.”

Massachusetts Courts also carve out an exception for cases where gross negligence is involved, holding that liability waivers in such circumstances are unenforceable according to public policy. Take a look at the cases Zavras v. Capeway Rovers Motorcycle Club, Inc., and Gillespie v. Papale. Gross negligence ultimately depends on the facts and circumstances of the case.

Just because you have signed a liability waiver does not mean that you have waived your ability to bring a claim for injuries due to the negligence of someone else. Get in touch with one of our experienced premises liability attorneys to see if you have a case. Depending on the circumstances, the waiver you signed might not be enforceable.