Club Insider

Risk Management

Minimize the Likelihood of Medical Emergencies and Mitigate Your Responsive Liability

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Paul R. Bedard, EsquirePaul R. Bedard, Esquire

Most health club owners and operators rightfully find themselves contemplating the inevitable medical emergency. It has been reported that more than 10,000 people are treated in emergency rooms daily for injuries stemming from exercise, sports and recreation. Many suffer injuries while using exercise equipment, with treadmills being involved in a significant percentage of these incidents. More than 250,000 Americans die annually due to sudden cardiac arrest, with a significant number of these cardiac events transpiring within health clubs. Although certain types of medical emergencies are beyond anyone's control, consistent operational practices guided by a targeted risk management strategy can reduce the likelihood of others.

This article is the third and final article in a series that explains in reasonable detail some of the most common legal risks within the health and fitness club industry and how to minimize legal exposure to these risks. However, these articles are not intended as legal advice. Widely varying laws specific to each jurisdiction prohibit one-size-fits-all recommendations. Please consider these comments as merely an educational guide to assist you when you consult your own attorney for specific direction.

Injury-Proof Your Facility to the Greatest Extent Possible

Although a medical emergency triggered by an underlying health condition may be unavoidable, club owners and operators can reduce the likelihood of those emergencies attributable to faulty equipment or facility issues. As one of my law school professors repeatedly reminded me throughout law school, all areas of the law are ultimately related. In this case, although we're addressing medical emergencies, premises liability considerations come into play.

From a legal standpoint, health club members and guests are considered invitees. Invitees are owed a duty of reasonable care, safe from injuries caused by reasonably foreseeable dangers. Club owners and operators have a duty to warn of dangerous or defective conditions they know or should know about, as well as dangers that invitees are unlikely to be able to see or avoid. A dangerous or defective condition can include, but is not limited to, wet or unsafe flooring, poor lighting, unsafe equipment or facility design, or hidden hazards.

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