Rimon’s Law360 article: If a non-English speaking customer signs your release, does it count?
Insight Jill Haley Penwarden · November 12, 2015
As a recreation provider, you have a strong liability release and ensure all of your customers sign it before participating. Since the courts have ruled that a liability release is a binding and enforceable contract, you’re covered, right? In most cases, yes … but what if your client doesn’t speak English and claims they didn’t understand what they were signing?
A recent California Court of Appeal decision, Jimenez v 24 Hour Fitness USA, Inc. (2015) 237 Cal.App.4th 546, held that a liability release signed by a non-English-speaking customer may not apply to bar her injury claim against a fitness center. The customer sued after she suffered severe head injuries when she fell off a treadmill at the fitness center, and the court denied the fitness center’s motion for summary judgment based on the release, finding that there were factual issues as to whether the release was obtained by “misrepresentation or fraud.” A fitness center employee testified that he attempted to explain the release document to the Spanish-speaking customer by using arm motions indicating excercise, but did not enlist a Spanish-speaking employee to help translate, and the customer later claimed that she did not know she was signing a liability release. This case illustrates the issues that may arise when having a non-English-speaking customer sign legal documents, such as a release of liability.