Premises Liability and the Gym

ELI5: Negligence

If you’re going to the gym, make sure you’re staying safe. 

What Is Premises Liability? 

Premises liability refers to the liability that property owners have when a person guest or implied invitee becomes injured on their property. While this does apply to residential properties, it also applies to commercial properties such as gyms. Property owners generally have a duty to prevent guests or implied invitees from becoming injured on their property due to a hazardous condition on the property. A hazardous condition could be a part of the property that’s being renovated, or it could be a puddle of water that could cause someone to slip and fall and become injured. Some states distinguish on whether a property owner can be held liable based on whether the dangerous condition is permanent or temporary. So, in the aforementioned example, the puddle of water should be cleaned up so that nobody slips and falls. If a puddle of water is outside a premises, where it’s more likely to be, it’s less likely that a property owner will be responsible for that. However, if there is a puddle of water inside, like in a grocery store, you have to demonstrate that it existed for such a period of time that the property owner knew, or should have know about it, and that they failed to remove the hazard. If, there is a hazardous condition that cannot be reasonably mitigated, like your home being renovated, the property owner should take reasonable precautions to ensure that nobody sustains injury due to the hazardous condition. In the case of the renovation, this may mean blocking off the parts of the facility that are under construction, monitoring the area to make sure nobody goes in there, and putting up signs, warning people to keep out. 

Exceptions to Premises Liability 

Like all things in life, there are exceptions. While property owners are generally liable for injuries that occur on their property due to their negligence, they’re not responsible for every single injury that occurs—especially if the property owner’s negligence didn’t cause the injury. For example, if you go to the gym, and you drop a 100 pound weight on your foot, the gym is less likely to be held liable for that. This is because the gym itself didn’t do anything to cause you to become injured. Instead, your own negligence caused you to sustain an injury. However, if you’re using a weight machine with a pulley system, and the pulley system hasn’t been well maintained, and it snaps, causing the weights to fall on you and cause injury, then the gym is going to be liable for failing to maintain their machine that is on their premises, something they are going to be presumed to have more notice about than you would, as a casual or occasional user of that equipment. 

Enforcing the Rules 

Most gyms employ staff to monitor the gym, especially during peak hours. These staff members can help prevent injuries by enforcing things such as dress codes, and keeping the facility clean. For example, if a staff member notices a person lifting weights without shoes on, the staff member should remind the person that they need to follow the dress code and wear closed-toed shoes in the gym. Or, if a staff member notices that a patron is doing something unreasonably dangerous while filming a TikTok at the gym, the staff member may need to tell the patron that the weights and machines are to be used as directed. 

Slip and Falls 

Slip and falls are a huge concern in gyms, and in many other commercial properties like restaurants and grocery stores. If there’s a puddle of water, the gym probably has a duty to clean it up in a reasonable amount of time, or particularly if it’s further into their premises, as opposed to right next to the front door. While it may sound like it’s not a big deal, many people become seriously injured after slipping in a puddle and falling. In some cases, gyms have areas where there’s a lot of water to be expectes. Such areas include showers, locker rooms, and other places adjacent to a pool. In areas such as the aforementioned, gyms can reduce their liability by putting up signs to warn patrons of potential slip and fall hazards. Remember- if you’re someone who has been injured by a temporary hazard, the insurance company will likely try to claim that you were partially at fault if the dangerous  condition, like the puddle, was open and obvious, and one that you equally could have avoided. 

Warnings, Instructions, and Equipment Maintenance 

Certain machines have weight limits, and people who have certain conditions may be harmed by using certain machines. It’s important to leave such warnings on the machines. Furthermore, most machines come with instructions on how to use the machine. If a gym removes those instructions, or purchases machines without instructions, they could have some liability if a person uses the equipment and becomes injured due to incorrect usage. If you encounter a machine at the gym, and you’re not sure how to use it and there are no instructions, asking a staff member or watching a video on it can help you use the machine in the correct way. Finally, if you notice that a part of the equipment is broken or fraying- don’t use it. Report it to the gym personnel immediately, so that it doesn’t cause injury to you or someone else. 

When You’ve Been Injured 

If you’ve sustained injury due to a negligent property owner, you may have a personal injury claim. Contact Moxie Law Group for your free consultation. 

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