Sustaining an Injury at a Gym (24 Hour Fitness)

On December 19, 2008, the Second Appellate District of California filed a opinion thoroughly analyzing a gym’s (in this case 24 Hour Fitness, Corp.) liability for injuries sustained by its clients while using exercise equipment (Ontiveros v. 24 Hour Fitness Corporation). In this case, the plaintiff was injured while she was exercising on a stair step machine. After being injured while working on that machine, she sued 24 Hour Fitness for, among other things, strict products liability, alleging that the Defendant 24 Hour Fitness should be held liable for her injuries regardless of whether it was negligent in maintaining and operating the stair step machine in question.

The main question that the appellate court faced in that case was whether the membership agreement between the pliantiff and 24 Hour Fitness was primarily for using products (exercise equipment) or services. Under the products liability law, the gym could only be found strictly liable for products liability, it the dominant purpose of its relationship with a specific customer was to provide products. The injured plaintiff argued that because she only signed up with 24 Hour Fitness to use their free weights and stair machine, her agreement was predominanty for use of products rather than services. The court found, however, that a relationship such as this, where the customer has a range of services available to her (personal traning, swimming pool, dance classes, etc.) when signing up for a gym membership is predominanty for services, regardless of whether the customer was using those services.  Thus, the court concluded that the injured woman may not maintain a strict products liability action under the circumstances against 24 Hour Fitness.

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