Anderson v. Fitness International, LLC (Second Appellate District)
In a published opinion by the Second Appellate District, the Court affirmed summary judgment for Fitness International, LLC. (Fitness) in a premises liability case brought by an injured club member named Kirk Anderson.
The case involved a slip and fall injury sustained in a fitness club shower and Alice filed a summary judgment motion seeking to enforce the binding waiver and release contained in the membership agreement that plaintiff signed when he joined the club. Plaintiff sought to get past the written waiver upon a claim that Fitness was grossly negligent. Gross negligence is one of the few exceptions to a written waiver contained in fitness club membership agreements. In particular, Plaintiff alleged that he, and other members of the club, had fallen in the shower on soap residue prior to his latest fall and that the club had been warned about the dangerous condition of the shower several times prior to the injury-causing event. Plaintiff alleged Fitness's failure to remedy the slippery condition in the shower---even after being warned about the danger---went beyond ordinary negligence and amounted to gross negligence.
The trial court granted the summary judgment motion and entered judgment in favor of Fitness. In doing so, the trial court found that Fitness's conduct---even as alleged by plaintiff---did not rise to the level of gross negligence.
Plaintiff appealed and sought a determination by the appellate court that by failing to remedy a dangerous condition after receiving notice Fitness was grossly negligent and cannot escape liability based upon the written waiver. Alice Smith filed a brief on behalf of Fitness in which she argued that even if Plaintiff's claims were true, the conduct of Fitness amounted at most to general negligence. Thus, Anderson's claims were barred by the written waiver that he signed when he joined the club.
The Second Appellate District reviewed a history of cases involving determinations of gross negligence and affirmed the trial court's determination that Plaintiff's complaint did not allege facts supporting a finding of gross negligence against Fitness. In reaching its opinion the appellate court wrote that "the allegations in the first amended complaint fail to allege sufficient facts to support a theory of gross negligence. Although Anderson alleges the tile floor in the shower room was routinely covered in oily and soapy residue, he has not alleged facts to show its condition was an extreme departure from conditions one would expect in a health club shower facility. Nor can he allege the risk in using the shower facility was unknown to him, given his prior falls and his execution of the Release."