Wright County District Court File No. C2-04-2957.
1. Parties to a contract may protect themselves against liability for negligence if the release language is unambiguous in scope and does not contravene public policy.
2. A release that purports to exonerate the benefited party from liability for "any act or omission, including negligence," is not ambiguous as to negligence despite broad additional language.
3. A fitness club's requirement that members sign a release of liability for negligence does not contravene public policy because such clubs are not engaged in a necessary public service and fitness services are widely obtainable elsewhere.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Shumaker, Judge
Considered and decided by Stoneburner, Presiding Judge; Shumaker, Judge; and Dietzen, Judge.
When appellant registered to become a member of respondent health and fitness club, she signed a release of liability of the club for injuries from "any act or omission, including negligence." Appellant was injured and sued respondent for damages for negligence. Respondent moved for summary judgment on the ground that appellant had released it from liability for negligence. The district court granted the motion. Appellant contends that the release is unenforceable because it is ambiguous in scope and contravenes public policy. The district court did not err in granting summary judgment.
Respondent McOskar Enterprises, Inc. owns and operates a fitness and health club in Monticello known as "Curves for Women." Appellant Tammey J. Anderson joined the club on April 2, 2003.
As part of the registration requirements, Anderson read an "AGREEMENT AND RELEASE OF LIABILITY," initialed each of the three paragraphs in the document, and dated and signed it. The first paragraph purported to release Curves from liability for injuries Anderson might sustain in participating in club activities or using club equipment:
In consideration of being allowed to participate in the activities and programs of Curves for Women(r) and to use its facilities, equipment and machinery in addition to the payment of any fee or charge, I do hereby waive, release and forever discharge Curves International Inc., Curves for Women(r), and their officers, agents, employees, representatives, executors, and all others (Curves(r) representatives) from any and all responsibilities or liabilities from injuries or damages arriving [sic] out of or connected with my attendance at Curves for Women(r), my participation in all activities, my use of equipment or machinery, or any act or omission, including negligence by Curves(r) representatives.
The second paragraph provided for Anderson's acknowledgment that fitness activities "involve a risk of injury" and her agreement "to expressly assume and accept any and all risks of injury or death."
After completing the registration, Anderson began a workout, primarily with machines, under the supervision of a trainer. About 15 or 20 minutes later, having used four or five machines, Anderson developed a headache in the back of her head. She contends that she told the trainer, who suggested that the problem was likely just a previous lack of use of certain muscles and that Anderson would be fine.
Anderson continued her workout and developed pain in her neck, shoulder, and arm. She informed the trainer but continued to exercise until she ...