Timothy Grebing v 24 Hour Fitness USA, Inc (2015) H&FLR 2015-21
California Court of Appeal (Second District)
29 January 2015
Coram: Kitching PJ, Lavin and Aldrich JJ
Appearing for the Plaintiff: Charles R. Grebing, Andrew A. Servais, and Dwayne H. Stein (of Wingert Grebing Brubaker & Juskie)
Appearing for the Defendant: Jack C. Nick and Robert R. Willis (of Prindle, Amaro, Goetz, Hillyard, Barnes & Reinholtz)
Catchwords: California – personal injury – faulty machine – waiver – negligence – product liability
Facts: The plaintiff was injured on 9 May 2012 while using a “low row” weight training machine at the defendant’s “24 Hour Fitness” club in La Mirada. The clip securing the handlebar of the machine gave way, causing the plaintiff to suffer injuries to his head, back and neck. The defendant conceded that the machine had been fitted with the wrong clip.
The plaintiff brought proceedings against the defendant for negligence, negligent products liability, strict products liability and breach of the implied warranty of merchantability. The defendant sought and was granted summary dismissal of the proceeding based on the release signed by the plaintiff, relieving the defendant of liability for injury resulting from the negligence by it or anyone acting on its behalf: Grebing v 24 Hour Fitness USA, Inc (L.A. Co. Sup. Ct, Jessner J, 28 February 2014, unreported). The plaintiff appealed.
Held: Per curiam, dismissing the appeal, that –
1. A release of liability for future negligence will be valid, unless it is barred by statute or is against the public interest. The public interest is not generally considered to be impaired by releases relating to exercise facilities or recreational sport.
Tunkl v Regents of University of California (1963) 60 Cal.2d 92 and Capri v L.A. Fitness International LLC (2006) 136 Cal.App.4th 1078, followed.
2. A release of liability for future gross negligence will generally be considered unenforceable as a mater of public policy. Gross negligence is considered to be an extreme departure from ordinary standards, or a “want of even scant care”. The available evidence did not suggest the presence of gross negligence.
City of Santa Barbara v Superior Court (2007) 41 Cal.4th 747, followed.
3. The release covered the risk of defective maintenance or assembly of exercise equipment because this risk was reasonably related to use of the facility and equipment.
Leon v Family Fitness Center (#107), Inc. (1998) 61 Cal.App.4th 1227, followed.
4. The plaintiff’s claim based on product liability was defective. A defendant is not liable in products liability if the dominant purpose of the transaction with the plaintiff is provision of services rather than a product, which was the case given the services supplied.
Ontiveros v 24 Hour Fitness USA Inc (2008) 169 Cal.App.4th 424
The Court’s judgment is available here.