We recently attended a Next Generation Gym Owners conference in Dallas, TX. While there, we gave a lecture on breaches of contract and general liability. A member of the audience raised the question of why gyms aren’t treated like trampoline parks or ski resorts. The point the audience member was making is that there are certain activities that the law understands to be dangerous. It is incredibly hard for someone to sue for injury because these activities are “inherently” dangerous. So, the audience member wanted to know, why doesn’t the law consider gyms to be inherently dangerous? The answer is a bit complicated.
Implied assumption of risk is a concept that plays a crucial role in understanding the inherent dangers associated with certain activities. While some activities come with an implied assumption of risk due to their nature, others, such as gyms, are generally perceived as safer environments. To help understand this, we will explore the concept of implied assumption of risk, provide examples of activities that carry this assumption, discuss the reasons behind their implied risk, and shed light on why gyms are not typically considered high-risk environments.
Understanding Implied Assumption of Risk:
Implied assumption of risk refers to the understanding that individuals willingly engage in activities with inherent dangers or potential harm. By choosing to participate, they accept these risks, acknowledging that accidents or injuries can occur even when precautions are taken. While the law expects participants to exercise caution, it is essential to recognize that some activities carry greater inherent risks than others.
Activities with Implied Assumption of Risk:
- Extreme Sports:
Extreme sports like skydiving, rock climbing, and bungee jumping are classic examples of activities with an implied assumption of risk. These activities involve pushing physical and mental boundaries, often taking place in unpredictable environments, and requiring specialized skills and equipment.
Activities such as car racing, motorcycle racing, or off-road racing come with an implied assumption of risk due to the high speeds, potential collisions, and the physical demands placed on participants. The risk factor is amplified by factors such as challenging terrains, adverse weather conditions, and mechanical failures.
Mountaineering, especially in challenging conditions or on difficult routes, carries inherent risks. Factors such as avalanches, falls, extreme weather conditions, and altitude sickness contribute to the implied assumption of risk in this activity.
Reasons Behind Implied Assumption of Risk in Certain Activities:
Activities with an implied assumption of risk share common characteristics that contribute to their perception as high-risk endeavors. These factors include:
- Unpredictable Environments:
Many risky activities take place in environments where conditions can change rapidly and pose hazards beyond an individual’s control. Examples include the wilderness, extreme weather conditions, or remote locations lacking immediate access to medical aid.
- Inherent Physical Demands:
Activities like extreme sports, motorsports, or mountaineering often require participants to possess specialized physical skills and endurance levels. The physical demands themselves introduce a higher risk of accidents or injuries.
- Equipment Reliance:
Certain activities involve using complex equipment, such as parachutes, climbing gear, or racing vehicles, where failure or misuse can lead to severe consequences. Inadequate maintenance, equipment malfunctions, or improper usage increase the risk factor.
Why Gyms Typically Lack Implied Assumption of Risk:
Contrasting with high-risk activities, gyms are generally not associated with an implied assumption of risk due to the following reasons:
- Controlled Environments:
Gyms provide controlled environments with regulated equipment, properly maintained facilities, and trained staff. These measures help minimize the risks associated with exercise and physical activities.
- Professional Guidance:
Gyms employ fitness professionals who offer guidance, demonstrate proper techniques, and provide safety instructions. Their expertise helps users understand and reduce the risk of injuries by following correct exercise practices.
- Diverse User Base:
Gyms cater to individuals of various fitness levels, allowing them to choose exercises and activities within their capabilities. This flexibility reduces the likelihood of engaging in activities that may pose a higher risk due to lack of preparation or training.
Like most legal issues that gym owners run into, each state looks at implied assumption of risk a little differently. However, we are not aware of any state that puts gyms on the level of the extreme activities listed above. This is why gyms need liability waivers. Because a good liability waiver puts the signor on notice of the Assumption of Risk. Gym owners cannot leave their business exposed to the question of whether their state will imply an assumption of risk to the activity. Instead, the gym owner must be proactive in protecting their gym.