TN Health Club Not Liable for Member’s Sexual Assault
At one time or another, all of us have been asked to sign some sort of “release” or “waiver” holding a property owner harmless for any injury we might suffer while on the premises. Most people sign such waivers without giving it a second thought. Unfortunately, when something does happen to them, that same waiver can make it impossible to seek damages in a personal injury lawsuit against the property owner.
Court of Appeals: Plaintiff Failed to Establish “Negligence”
Consider this recent decision by the Tennessee Court of Appeals, Boswell v. Young Men’s Christian Association of Middle Tennessee. The plaintiff in this case was a member of a health club owned by the defendant. On three separate occasions, according to the plaintiff’s lawsuit, he was sexually assaulted while on the club’s property, specifically the locker room.
The plaintiff did not report the first assault. After the second assault, he spoke to an employee of the defendant. The plaintiff declined the employee’s request to review surveillance footage to identify the attacker, however, stating he “did not want a federal investigation” due to the fact he was on parole. Nevertheless, the plaintiff did file a written “comment card” asking the defendant to “put somebody inside the shower area to protect people from being sexually assaulted.”
Seven months later, the third sexual assault took place. All three assaults involved the same attacker, according to the plaintiff. After this third attack, the plaintiff spoke directly to the executive director of the club, where he “complained that no action had been taken” in response to his not following the second attack.
Some time later, the YMCA “terminated the membership” of the attacker. The plaintiff subsequently sued the attacker for assault and battery. He also sued the defendant for “negligence” and other torts. In response, the defendant pointed to the plaintiff’s signed Membership Application, which included a waiver and release against the club for all “injuries or damages” arising from the plaintiff’s use of the facilities.
The trial court agreed with the defense and granted summary judgment to the defendant. The Court of Appeals agreed the case should be dismissed, although for different reasons. Basically, the appeals court said the plaintiff failed to present any evidence that the defendant knew–or could have reasonably known–that the attacker would sexually assault him. Given this, the plaintiff could not establish a claim for negligence, so the enforceability of the waiver and release was a “moot” issue.
Speak with a Clinton, TN Personal Injury Lawyer Today
Many people are reluctant to come forward right away when they suffer a serious injury, whether it is the result of an accident or a deliberate attack. But delay often makes it difficult–if not impossible–to take legal action later. So if you have been harmed as the result of a third party’s negligence or intentional act, it is in your best interest to speak with a Clinton personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. Contact the offices of Fox Farley Willis & Burnette, Attorneys at Law, to schedule a free consultation with a member of our team today.