Negligence vs Gross Negligence

TASA ID: 4009

Joining a health/exercise center these days often includes signing some form of hold harmless agreement which absolves the center from acts of negligence.  If a member is injured and sues, then plaintiff has to show that the club had committed gross negligence. I recently worked as a plaintiff’s expert on such a case.  A health club member was injured when he attempted to mount an elliptical exercise machine which had been located too close to another. He was struck and injured by the moving part of the adjoining machine. 

The kinds of items cited in this case are illustrative of how to generally make the case for gross negligence versus simple negligence.

The starting point was negligence – noting that the manufacturer’s minimum spacing instructions had been violated.  Next, sources were quoted to establish that the minimum spacing between exercise machines in general was a well-established safety consideration.   The spacing rule had been violated on a number of levels, starting with the original blueprints which did not provide the specific spacing, but depicted more machines than could be safely put into the space available.  A survey was made of the machine spacing in competing health centers to show that the state of the industry was to comply with the rule which this defendant violated.  The center’s trainers were deposed to establish that employees of the defendant had a daily responsibility to monitor the condition and spacing of the club’s equipment.  Photos were taken to demonstrate how easy it was to see the spacing violation, even from a distance.   The frequency at which this spacing violation created a danger was noted.   The improper spacing was a danger not just once in a great while, but rather every day that the center was open.  These were the points raised to establish gross negligence.     

TASA Article Disclaimer

This article discusses issues of general interest and does not give any specific legal or business advice pertaining to any specific circumstances.  Before acting upon any of its information, you should obtain appropriate advice from a lawyer or other qualified professional.

This article may not be duplicated, altered, distributed, saved, incorporated into another document or website, or otherwise modified without the permission of TASA and the author (TASA ID#: 4009). Contact marketing@tasanet.com for any questions.

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