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It seems like everyone has taken up rock climbing in the past few years, and gyms, recreational supply stores, and even college campuses nationwide are adding climbing walls to their facilities. While climbing wall injuries may be rare, they can have severe consequences.
So who's liable if you're injured on an indoor climbing wall? And can you sue?
Property owners can be held liable for injuries that occur on their property, and business owners like gyms and climbing facilities must take reasonable steps to assure the safety of the premises. If the property owner or their staff should have known about a potential injury risk from a climbing wall and failed to take action or advice you of the risk, you may have a valid premises liability claim.
While climbing facility owners should make regular inspections of the facility for defects and potential dangers, sometimes defects with equipment can cause injury. Climbing equipment manufacturers have a duty to ensure their products, including climbing walls, are safe, and may be strictly liable if a person is injured using their product. Product liability claims against gym equipment manufacturers can be based on defects in design, defects in manufacturing, or defects in warnings.
One aspect about injury lawsuits that may be unique to climbing facilities is a waiver. Many gyms and indoor walls will ask participants to sign liability waivers which ostensibly prohibit you from suing if you get hurt while climbing. However, while courts will generally enforce negligence waivers that cover injuries caused by the facility or its employees' own negligence, other waivers that cover total liability or intentional acts have been found unenforceable. So even if you've signed a liability waiver for a climbing wall, you may still be able to sue if your injury is not your fault.