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SIMMONS v. PARKETTE NATL. GYMNASTIC TRAINING CTR.
July 9, 1987
Tara A. Simmons, a minor, by her parent and natural guardian, Sharon L. Grenell, and Sharon L. Grenell, in her own right
Parkette National Gymnastic Training Center; Parkette National Gymnastic Team, Inc.; and Parkette National Gymnastic Center, Inc.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: TROUTMAN
The plaintiffs instituted this action claiming that the minor plaintiff, Tara A. Simmons, suffered personal injuries as a result of the negligent acts and/or omissions of one or more of the defendants' employees. The minor plaintiff's mother asserts causes of action against the defendants in her own right and on behalf of her minor daughter as the child's parent and natural guardian.
The defendants assert as an affirmative defense a "release" alleged to have been executed by the plaintiffs on February 12, 1984. (Defendant's Answer, Doc. # 4, Sixth Affirmative Defense). The defendants seek judgment against the plaintiffs on the basis of the pleadings pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(c) on the ground that the release absolves them from all liability for the damages allegedly suffered by the plaintiffs. We believe, however, that the defendants' motion is more appropriately characterized as one for summary judgment pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 56, and we have, therefore, considered it as such. Thus, we may grant the motion only if there are no genuine issues of material fact and the defendants are entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See, e.g., General Sound Telephone Co., Inc. v. A T & T Communications, Inc., 654 F. Supp. 1562 (E.D. Pa. 1987), for a discussion of the requirements for the entry of summary judgment.
The "release" asserted by the defendants provides as follows:
In consideration of my participation in Parkettes, I, intending to be legally bound, do hereby, for myself, my heirs, executors, and administrators, waive and release any and all right and claims for damages which I may hereafter accrue to me against the United States Gymnastic Federation, the Parkette National Gymnastic Team, their officers, representatives, successors, and/or assigns for any and all damages which may be sustained and suffered by me in connection with my association with the above gymnastic program, or which may arise out of my traveling to or participating in and returning from any activity associated with the program.
Gymnast's Signature /s/ Tara Simmons
Signature of Parent or Guardian
(Defendants' Motion for Judgment on the Pleading, Doc. # 5, Ex. "A").
As can be seen, the release is prospective in nature, i.e., it purports to exculpate the defendants from future liability, as opposed to a release compromising and settling an already existing claim for damages. See, e.g., Gimpel v. Host Enterprises, Inc., 640 F. Supp. 972 (E.D. Pa. 1986) (exculpatory clause contained in preprinted rental agreement effectively released bicycle lessor from any liability arising from rental and use of bicycle leased to plaintiff). Looking to the law of Pennsylvania to determine the validity of such exculpatory agreements, it is clear that,
Generally speaking, an exculpatory (agreement) is valid if: (a) 'it does not contravene any policy of the law, that is, if it is not a matter of interest to the public or State . . . .' (Citation omitted); (b) 'the contract is between persons relating entirely to their own private affairs' (Citation omitted); (c) 'each party is a free bargaining agent' and the (agreement) is not in effect 'a mere contract of adhesion, whereby [one party] simply adheres to a document ...
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