Thursday, December 3, 2015

Seigneur v. National Fitness Institute, Inc. case brief summary

Seigneur v. National Fitness Institute, Inc. case brief
Court of special appeals in Maryland, 2000
Facts: Examining the enforceability of an exculpatory clause found in a K. Plaintiff was injured in an evaluation at a fitness club owned by defendant. Plaintiff, when signing K, disclosed multiple problems with her lower back and a herniated disc and that her physical condition was poor. During the initial evaluation, she felt a ripping sensation in the shoulder and received pain and had difficulty using her shoulder and underwent shoulder surgery for a condition attributed to the machine. Filed negligence suit against NFI based on the actions of their employee and for its negligence in hiring and failing to properly train him. 
NFI said that participation agreement was valid and that she cannot sue while the plaintiff said the opposite and that it was against public policy and ambiguous. 
Decision: Affirmed for defendant 
Reasoning: Have to decide if the clause was valid, they are required to give legal effect to all unambiguous provisions. In Maryland, a clause like the one in the agreement is enough to release the defendant from any liability as long as the language clearly and specifically indicates the intent to release the defendant from liability caused by defendants negligence. The court found language applicable. 
However, there is a public policy exception to this. However, there are three exceptions where it can be ignored 1. When the party intentionally causes harm, 2. When bargaining power is so unequal of parties and 3. When a transaction involves public interest. However also made exceptions for services that are extremely important and it is obvious that the gym service is not extremely important. 
Basically found that there was no difference in bargaining power here, there was no intentional harm, AND the service provided was not so important that it required protecting. Therefore they can just affirm the judgment for the defendant because the negligence of the defendant was excused by contractual agreement between plaintiff and defendant. 

Holding: Where a defendant does not commit harm intentionally when there is no unequal bargaining power, and the service is not essential to the public interest and good, a plaintiff cannot maintain a suit against the defendant when they signed an exculpatory clause assuming the risk. 

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