A woman in California is suing SoulCycle for negligence after an injury that followed when an instructor allegedly barked at her to pedal faster in front of her bosses and co-workers. Even as the woman could feel her knees begin to buckle, she tried briefly to push herself harder. She couldn’t keep going. But, she soon realized, she couldn’t stop the bike. She fell off, her feet still strapped to the pedals. According to her personal injury lawsuit, she suffered catastrophic damage to her ankles.
SoulCycle, popular in large cities and among celebrities like Oprah and Kelly Roland, involves cycling while also working out the upper body, either with weights or dance moves. The classes are pricey and the studios are designed to feel elite. Beginner riders are relegated to the back of the classes, only moving forward – and closer to the instructor – once they’ve mastered the moves. This seems a bit counterintuitive, considering less experienced riders would seemingly benefit more from being able to watch the instructor more closely. But again, it has to do with the vibe of exclusivity.
But is public shaming a grounds to bring a negligence lawsuit? The bigger issues here are the fact that, according to plaintiff’s complaint:
- The instructors weren’t properly trained;
- Instructors failed to instruct participants of how to properly operate and stop the bike;
- Instructors failed to properly supervise the participants;
- She did not sign a waiver of liability.
That last one will be essential because in so many personal injury lawsuits against gyms and fitness centers, that waiver of liability becomes a significant legal hurdle.
The language in most liability waivers is intentionally broad. Often, it contains provisions indicating you willfully assume any and all risks associated with whatever training or exercising for which you are signing up. It’s often stipulated that this willful assumption of risk includes the risk of injury and even death due to improper use of equipment or defects in the equipment. Many times, members and participants waive the right to pursue the facility even when the instructors or other staffers are negligent. Most also contain a clause in which participants affirm they have no pre-existing health issues that would affect their ability to participate.
It’s great news for this plaintiff if there truly is no waiver involved.
For those who have suffered personal injury at a gym who aren’t so fortunate, there may still be opportunity to pursue a negligence action. It’s important to understand that regardless of how broad the language on the waiver, it doesn’t cover absolutely everything. For example in most cases, it often is not applicable to injuries that result from intentional or reckless conduct of a staffer. In a case like this, it could mean recklessly pushing a participant past their physical limitations, particularly during their very first class, as this woman was.
Further, judges have been known to determine elements of waivers are insufficient or unfair. If the judge opines the waiver is overly-broad or that rights were signed away when they weren’t clearly stated or that pertinent information was printed in tiny letters, he or she can decide against the validity of the contract.
Contact the Carolina injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.
This Woman Says SoulCycle Shamed Her Into Injuring Herself – So She’s Suing Them, June 8, 2016, By Peter Slattery, The Daily Beast
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