Gym season is over and maybe that’s a good thing -- given what can go wrong. In some states, a gym membership contract’s liability waiver means you can’t sue even if you are hurt and it’s the gym’s fault. (Check out this recent New Jersey case, where a state Superior Court upheld a broad liability waiver in a bench ruling, with the judge reportedly saying, “Health clubs are entitled to broad limits on liability ‘because of the fact that when you engage in rigorous physical activity—like is encouraged in a health club [and] is the entire purpose of a health club—there are chances that you may injure any range of muscles, tendons, bones, nerves, what-have-you.’”) Yikes.
Luckily, not every state thinks this way. Some states expect gyms to operate in a non-negligent manner (imagine!) and consider such broad waivers to be against public policy. To sum up, if you are hurt in a gym and it’s the gym’s fault, you may not be able to do much about it depending on where you are.
Wonder what that all means for Soul Cycle?
The Hollywood Reporter has just published an article describing Soul Cycle's litany of legal doo-doo for a range of problems, safety and otherwise. (Yes, the fact that THR has investigated this tells you a lot about the cult of Soul Cycle.)
Here’s one case about the hazards of spin class when the instructor apparently doesn’t care much if you’re not “front row” material:
[Carmen] Farias says she decided to give the sport a spin as part of a corporate outing in July 2014. She says she had never been to a spinning class of any kind and, while she had ridden a traditional bicycle before, she had not engaged in a physical fitness regimen for several years. An unnamed employee helped Farias clip into her cycle, but no one ever showed her how it worked or warned her not to get out of the seat while the flywheel was spinning. …
"Carmen was embarrassed that she was being called out in front of her bosses and fellow employees," states the lawsuit. "The shame caused Carmen to momentarily attempt to pedal faster."
Farias says she quickly realized she needed to stop, but didn’t know how.
“Fatigue and disorientation overcame Carmen and she fell to her right and off of the saddle of the spinning cycle,” states the complaint. “Although her head and torso were now lying to the right side of the spinning cycle, Carmen’s left and right foot remained locked to the pedals.”
The momentum of the flywheel kept the pedals turning and her left ankle was repeatedly dislocated, she claims, leaving her "catastrophically injured." She says she completed and signed the new rider waiver form, but left it on her desk at work and any waiver she may have signed while checking in at the Beverly Hills studio in is a violation of public policy and unenforceable because SoulCycle failed to provide her with a copy.
But here’s an interesting wrinkle: Soul Cycle instructors allegedly are not compensated for any time they spend providing the required “15-minute introduction to spinning and instruction on how to properly and safely use the bike and what to do in response to fatigue.” That’s perhaps why it wasn’t done here. Notably, this was also “an issue in two class-action wage and hour lawsuits against the company." (One case was dismissed, the other settled.)
On a related topic, a new class action lawsuit alleges that New York’s Crunch Gym pays, “fitness instructors just $8.75 an hour for one-on-one sessions and refus[es] to compensate them at all for other duties like meetings and cleaning.”
But back to spinning. Forget road rage. Have you heard about the "spin rage” case against Equinox (which owns Soul Cycle)?
Stuart Sugarman was spinning along, cheering and shouting things like "You go, girl!" in a Manhattan Equinox gym. Christopher Carter, who was a few bikes down, quickly became agitated. Sugarman claims Carter verbally assaulted him before he dismounted from his bike and in a "spin rage" picked up the front of Sugarman's cycle and threw him into the wall of the classroom, "leaving a hole in the sheetrock where his cycle penetrated."
The New York Post described it as a "psycho spin out." Carter was acquitted, but Sugarman sued him and the gym, claiming "mental and physical anguish, economic loss, pain and suffering, humiliation and damage to reputation" as a result of the incident.
The judge dismissed the company as a defendant in 2008, but litigation between the two spinners is pending.
This all makes the class action against Fitbit for their defective heart rate monitors seem downright genteel. However, the company probably needs to worry about the new study from California State Polytechnic University researchers, who found those heart rate trackers to be "highly inaccurate."
As we always say, buyer beware – but sue when possible.