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Jiminez v. 24 Hour Fitness USA, Inc.
California Court of Appeal
237 Cal. App. 4th 546 (2015)
Etelvina Jiminez (plaintiff) was a member of 24 Hour Fitness USA, Inc. (defendant). When she signed up, Jiminez spoke to 24 Hour’s membership manager. Jiminez spoke and read only Spanish, and the membership manager spoke and read only English. The membership manager did not seek any assistance from a Spanish-speaking colleague, contrary to 24 Hour’s standard practice. Instead, the membership manager showed Jiminez the membership price on his computer screen and made pumping motions, indicating exercise. The membership manager then pointed to a place on a membership agreement for Jiminez to sign. The membership agreement contained a waiver and release of liability, but Jiminez could not read the agreement because it was only written in English. Jiminez signed and paid the membership fee. Approximately two years later, Jiminez fell backwards off of a moving treadmill while exercising. Jiminez hit her head on the exposed steel foot of a leg-exercise machine placed less than four feet behind the treadmill and sustained severe head injuries. Jiminez and her husband sued 24 Hour, alleging gross negligence. Jiminez submitted expert testimony that facilities should provide a safety zone behind treadmills because users occasionally trip, stumble, or fall off of treadmills. The treadmill manufacturer’s instructions required at least six feet of open space behind the treadmill for safety. Jiminez’s investigator determined that many of the treadmills had other equipment placed within this safety zone, some with as little as three feet between the treadmill and other equipment. Jiminez’s experts opined that the placement of this equipment greatly increased the risk of injury. 24 Hour moved for summary judgment, arguing that the liability release in the membership agreement barred recovery. Jiminez argued that the membership agreement did not cover injuries caused by gross negligence and that the agreement was obtained by fraud or misrepresentation. The trial court granted the motion, and Jiminez appealed.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Murray, J.)
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