Are Gym Owners Liable for My Injuries at a Gym?

Understanding the enforceability of liability waivers in Colorado

By Benjy Schirm, J.D. | Reviewed by Canaan Suitt, J.D. | Last updated on November 21, 2023

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As we roll into the holidays on a buffet of sweets and heaping dinners, we often find ourselves staring back at the choices we’ve made over the past year and realize that some of those choices have stuck around—literally. Health clubs, CrossFit gyms, fitness centers, and yoga studios all know that the biggest time of the year is New Year.

But when droves of people arrive at gyms, they are greeted with a piece of paper full of legal gobbledygook. What does it all mean? What happens if you’re injured? Are you signing your life away?

A Three-Part Test to Determine if a Waiver of Liability is Enforceable

No one wants to sign away their rights, but there are inherent risks in any exercise. In Colorado, there is a three-part test to determine if the waiver is enforceable. The fitness facility must prove each part to be protected from a personal injury lawsuit.

Part 1: What Is the Situation?

There are a number of situations where liability cannot be waived. If the injury claim involved a minor, took place on a mode of transport (a bus, an elevator, etc.), or involved willful or wanton misconduct, for example, the waiver would not be valid protection from a suit.

Part 2: Was the Waiver Clear?

The fitness facility must show it performs an important and essential service to the public in this prong. But more importantly, it must prove the contract was entered into fairly.

For example, if you were given little time to sign it, the font of disclaimers was unreasonably small, if there were undue pressures to sign, the intention of the waiver was unclear, or the language was ambiguous, those could be arguments to invalidate the waiver.

Part 3: Was the Waiver Understood?

Similar to part 2, this essentially asks how the waiver was formed and could be interpreted. Did all the parties involved understand the terms of the waiver?

Should I Sign It?

In signing a waiver, there is always some acknowledgment of risk. These waivers are enforceable in Colorado, but they are subject to a wide variety of defenses and challenges.

As you might expect, parts 2 and 3 of the test are open to interpretation, and courts sometimes strike down waivers and allow people to file injury lawsuits. After all, laws like this are built to protect consumers.

Find an Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer

If you’ve been injured at a gym facility, but the membership agreement includes a release of liability, consider speaking with a reputable personal injury attorney for legal advice about your options. Many personal injury lawyers provide free consultations to learn more about your case.

For more information on this area of law, see our overview of consumer law and contract law.

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