Appeals panel: 'Chiropractic maneuver' claim won't trump member agreement terms in suit vs Capital Fitness

By Cook County Record | Feb 12, 2019

ELGIN - A state appeals panel has closed the door on a woman's attempt to sidestep a clause in her membership agreement, and still sue her fitness club and her personal trainer for a back injury she suffered, claiming the trainer had engaged in an improper "chiropractic maneuver."

Plaintiff Gabriela Sosa-Gaines filed a complaint in DuPage County Circuit Court against Capital Fitness and Don Myles, her personal trainer at the facility, after she was allegedly injured during a workout session in October 2009. Sosa-Gaines stated she suffered injuries “when the trainer pressed down in the area of her spine to relieve her discomfort during a training session,” according to the court decision.

However, the fitness club argued Sosa-Gaines had signed an agreement that waived all claims for injuries that happened at their facility. But Sosa-Gaines argued the trainer had acted as an unlicensed chiropractor and, as such, the defendants violated the membership agreement. 

A jury found in favor of the defendants.

On appeal, the plaintiff claimed there were errors in some of the instructions given to the jury. But a three-justice panel of the Illinois Second District Appellate Court sided with the defendants.

“Plaintiff argues that the exculpatory clause does not cover a 'chiropractic maneuver' performed by a personal trainer,” Justice Michale J. Burke wrote in the appellate decision. “Plaintiff alleged defendants owed a duty of due care in providing personal training services and breached that duty."

Justices Ann B. Jorgensen and Donald C. Hudson concurred in the decision.

Burke noted in the decision that during the trial, Sosa-Gaines "failed to introduce expert testimony to establish that anything the trainer did amounted to a ‘chiropractic maneuver.'”

The justices also noted the jury were presented with "evidence ... on multiple theories" apart from the so-called exculpatory clause, which the fitness center should have prevented Sosa-Gaines' lawsuit.

Justices said she could not complain about the jury instructions concerning the exculpatory clause.

This decision was delivered as an unpublished order issued under Supreme Court Rule 23, which limits its use as a precedent.

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Circuit Court of Dupage County Illinois Second District Appellate Court

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