Are Waivers Effective?

Many businesses require their customers to sign a waiver to release the business from liability for certain claims.  A recent court case upheld the validity of a fitness club’s waiver, and highlighted some of the issues that affect their validity.  A customer of the fitness club injured her shoulder and claimed the injury was due to a defective shoulder press machine.   She alleged that the waiver she signed was invalid because its legal effect was not explained to her.  The waiver was in capital letters (while the rest of the contract was not) and the customer initialed the clause.  The court confirmed that, as a general rule, if a person signs a contract without reading it, they are still bound by its terms, unless there has been fraud, misrepresentation or a very onerous term that you wouldn’t expect to be in it.  The court also found that a waiver will not protect a business from claims for negligence, unless that is clearly stated, as it was in this case.  While the waiver was upheld, it is also prudent for a business to have liability insurance, and to be incorporated to protect the owners from personal liability.