Offord v. Fitness Intern., LLC, 2015 IL App (1st) 150879
Herbert Offord entered a LA Fitness with a guest pass. While playing basketball, Herbert allegedly slipped on water and fell, injuring his knee. Herbert sued LA Fitness alleging negligence and willful and wanton conduct. Plaintiff Herbert alleged that he slipped on water that leaked in from the roof. Defendant LA Fitness argued that the negligence count was barred by the guest waiver that the plaintiff had signed. Trial court found he Plaintiff signed the waiver and that the exculpatory clause that released LA Fitness from all liability arising from use of their facilities barred the negligence count. Plaintiff filed a motion to reconsider, was denied and then filed an appeal.
The appellate court reasoned that because the scope of an exculpatory clause is defined by the foreseeability of the specific danger and should strictly construed against the benefitting party that the Plaintiff could not have possibly foreseen that a leak from a defective building would cause his injury. The language used by LA Fitness is a standard use of language to cover incidents that involve gym members using equipment and the facilities, not to shield itself from injuries resulting from defects in the structure of their building.
A dissenting opinion from Justice Connors criticized the majorities “extremely tenuous distinction” between contemplating the source of the injury and contemplating the type of injury. Justice Connors argued that slipping on water is a risk commonly contemplated by gym goers and the point of the release is to put the plaintiff on notice of the range of dangers for which he assumes the risk to allow him to exercise greater caution. Therefore, Herbert should have exercised greater caution of the risk of slipping on a wet gymnasium floor, regardless of whether the wetness came from sweat, a water bottle or a leaky roof. The case was remanded back to circuit court.