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Alack v. Vic Tanny International of Missouri, Inc.

    Brief Fact Summary.

    Alack filed a negligence suit against Vic Tanny International of Missouri, Inc. after an upright row machine malfunctioned and injured Alack.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    Exculpatory clauses in contracts are strictly construed against the party claiming the benefit.

    Facts.

    Alack became a member of Vic Tanny International of Missouri, Inc. (Vic), a a health club. When he signed up for membership at Vic, he signed an exculpatory clause relieving Vic from any liability for injuries or claims. The exculpatory clause did not relieve Vic from damages resulting from the club’s own negligence. Alack was injured when an upright row machine malfunctioned and struck Alack. Alack filed a negligence suit against Vic Tanny International of Missouri, Inc. after an upright row machine malfunctioned and injured Alack. The jury granted judgment to Alack and Vic appealed.

    Issue.

    Whether exculpatory clauses in contracts are strictly construed against the party claiming the benefit?

    Held.

    Yes. The judgment of the trial court is affirmed. The exculpatory clause was overbroad because it did not expressly state that it was releasing Vic from future liability for negligence.

    Discussion.

    Exculpatory clauses in contracts are strictly construed against the party claiming the benefit. Exculpatory clauses must contain ambiguous language to relieve a defendant form liability. Exculpatory clauses must expressly state that it is relieving the benefactor from any liability resulting from negligence.


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