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Stone v. Life Time Fitness, Inc.

Court of Appeals of Colorado, First Division

December 29, 2016

Wendy Jane Stone, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
Life Time Fitness, Inc., a Minnesota corporation doing business in the State of Colorado, d/b/a Life Time Fitness; Life Time Fitness Foundation; and LTF Club Operations Company, Inc., Defendants-Appellees.

         City and County of Denver District Court No. 14CV33637 Honorable R. Michael Mullins, Judge

         JUDGMENT AFFIRMED IN PART, REVERSED IN PART, AND CASE REMANDED WITH DIRECTIONS

          Charles Welton P.C., Charles Welton, Denver, Colorado, for Plaintiff-Appellant

          Markusson Green & Jarvis, John T. Mauro, H. Keith Jarvis, Denver, Colorado, for Defendants-Appellees

          OPINION

          MILLER JUDGE

         ¶ 1 In this action seeking recovery for personal injuries sustained at a fitness club, plaintiff, Wendy Jane Stone, appeals the summary judgment entered in favor of defendants, Life Time Fitness, Inc.; Life Time Fitness Foundation; and LTF Club Operations Company, Inc. (collectively, Life Time), on Stone's negligence and Premises Liability Act (PLA) claims based on injuries sustained when she tripped on a hair dryer cord after washing her hands. The principal issue presented on appeal is whether the district court correctly ruled that Stone's claims are contractually barred based on assumption of risk and liability release language contained in a member usage agreement (Agreement) she signed when she became a member of Life Time.

         ¶ 2 We disagree with the district court's conclusion that the exculpatory provisions of the Agreement are valid as applied to Stone's PLA claim. Consequently, we reverse the judgment as to that claim and remand the case for further proceedings. We affirm the district court's judgment on the negligence claim.

         I. Background

         ¶ 3 Stone was a member of a Life Time fitness club located in Centennial. According to the complaint, she sustained injuries in the women's locker room after finishing a workout. Stone alleged that she had washed her hands at a locker room sink and then "turned to leave when she tripped on the blow dryer cord that was, unbeknownst to her, hanging to the floor beneath the sink and vanity counter top." She caught her foot in the cord and fell to the ground, fracturing her right ankle.

         ¶ 4 Stone alleged that allowing the blow dryer cord to hang below the sink counter constituted a trip hazard and a dangerous condition and that, by allowing the condition to exist, Life Time failed to exercise reasonable care. She asserted a general negligence claim and also a claim under Colorado's PLA, section 13-21-115, C.R.S. 2016.

         ¶ 5 Life Time moved for summary judgment, relying on assumption of risk and liability release language contained in the Agreement Stone signed when she joined Life Time. Life Time argued that the Agreement was valid and enforceable, that it expressly covered the type and circumstances of her injuries, and that it barred Stone's claims as a matter of law. A copy of the Agreement appears in the Appendix to this opinion.

         ¶ 6 After full briefing, the district court granted Life Time's motion, concluding that the Agreement was "valid and enforceable" and that Stone had released Life Time from all the claims asserted in the complaint.

         II. Discussion

         ¶ 7 She contends that the district court, therefore, erred in entering summary judgment and dismissing her action.

         A. Summary Judgment Standards

         ¶ 8 Summary judgment is appropriate if the pleadings and supporting documents establish that there is no genuine issue of material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Gagne v. Gagne, 2014 COA 127, ¶ 24; see C.R.C.P. 56(c). We review de novo an order granting a motion for summary judgment. Gagne, ¶ 24; see Ranch O, LLC v. Colo. Cattlemen's Agric. Land Tr., 2015 COA 20, ¶ 12.

         B. Negligence Claim

         ¶ 9 In her complaint, Stone alleged common law negligence and PLA claims, and she pursues both claims on appeal. The trial court's summary judgment ruled in favor of Life Time without distinguishing between Stone's negligence and PLA claims. It simply concluded that the exculpatory clauses in the Agreement were "valid and enforceable" and released Life Time from all claims asserted against it.

         ¶ 10 We turn to the negligence claim first because we may affirm a correct judgment for reasons different from those relied on by the trial court. English v. Griffith, 99 P.3d 90, 92 (Colo.App. 2004).

         ¶ 11 The parties agree that the PLA applies to this case. In section ...


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