Archive for the ‘Strict Liability’ Category

Maintenance Mystery – Gross Negligence is an Issue of Fact for Jury in Fitness Club Equipment Case (CA)

August 7, 2015

Chavez v. 24 Hour Fitness USA, Inc. (California)

Plaintiff suffered a traumatic brain injury when the back panel of a “FreeMotion cable crossover machine struck her in the head at the defendant’s workout facility.  Plaintiff filed a complaint alleging claims for ordinary and gross negligence and strict product liability.  The defendant moved for summary judgment arguing (1) the written release of liability in its membership application was a complete defense to the negligence claims, (2) it could not be liable under a products liability claim because it was a service provide and it was not in the chain of commerce, and (3) the plaintiff could not reasonably demonstrate an extreme departure from the ordinary standard of care or a failure to exercise scant care which was required to state a claim for gross negligence because the defendant’s technician routinely inspected the equipment and performed preventative maintenance on it.

Plaintiff opposed the motion, and, in the alternative, sought a continuance of the motion based on the fact that the defendant claimed that it was unable to produce the maintenance technician for deposition because he was not longer employed by defendant and he could not be found.  The trial court denied plaintiff’s motion to continue, noting that the maintenance technician had been identified many months before the defendant filed its motion for summary judgment, but plaintiff elected not to subpoena him until after it received the motion.  The trial court then granted the defendant’s motion finding (1) the primary purpose of the membership agreement was the provision of fitness services such that defendant could not be held strictly responsible under the products liability claim, (2) the ordinary negligence and premises liability claims were barred by the release of liability in the membership agreement, and (3) the defendant had met its burden to show it was not grossly negligent by establishing “it had a system of preventative and responsive maintenance of its equipment.”  Plaintiff appealed the trial court decision, but only as to the ruling on its motion to continue and as to the gross negligence claim. (more…)

On The Loose

September 28, 2012

White v. Elias (Ohio)
(An individual who was kicked by an escaped horse brought an action against the horse owner and the property owner; the court ruled that there was no strict liability but that an issue of material fact as to the potential negligence of the defendants.)

A horse boarding facility released horses to graze in a pasture unsupervised.  However, because there was no food trough and because the pasture was bare, six-horse then escaped from the pasture and ended up on a neighboring property.  The neighbor saw the horses and called the plaintiff because she was familiar with the horses.  They asked if she could help lead the horses home.  However, when the plaintiff approached the group of horses, one of them kicked back and hit her in the face, causing serious and permanent injuries.

The plaintiff sued the horse owner and the owner of the property where the horse was boarded, alleging claims for strict liability and negligence.  The defendants moved for summary judgment, which the trial court granted.  The plaintiff appealed.

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Monkey Business

August 31, 2012

Howard v. Chimps, Inc. (Oregon)
(An intern at a chimpanzee sanctuary was injured when she was attacked by a chimpanzee;  she sued the sanctuary but the court dismissed her negligence and strict liability claims in light of the intern manual that she read and signed that included a waiver and release agreement;  the court also determined that there was no reasonable evidence of gross negligence.)

An intern at a chimpanzee sanctuary was injured just ten days after her start date.  A chimpanzee attacked her while she was cleaning a cage, and she brought an action against the sanctuary for negligence and strict liability.  Plaintiff thereafter moved for partial summary judgment, arguing that the waiver and release she signed was not enforceable.  The trial court denied that motion and later granted the defendant’s motion for summary judgment finding that the waiver and release precluded the plaintiff’s claims.  Plaintiff then appealed.

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