Risky Business — Making money can be painful
Risky Business — Making money can be painful

Most people welcome ideas for ways to save or make more money. You don’t have to search too hard to find someone holding a seminar on such a topic. A financial company co-sponsored such an event with a fitness center. The financial company hosted the seminar and the fitness center provided the location. The fitness center did not have enough seats for everyone who had pre-registered so they contacted a rental store down the block and rented 40 additional chairs.

The timing was perfect as the rental store had just recently conducted in-depth maintenance on their chairs and had cleaned and painted their entire inventory, so they knew the chairs were in good shape.

The chairs were delivered to the fitness club on the morning of the seminar. Each chair had been checked as it was loaded onto the delivery truck and they also were given a quick once over as they were being set up.

That afternoon the room was decorated with play paper money, balloons and streamers to add a festive atmosphere to the event. At the appointed time, attendees filed into the conference room and took their seats. The lights dimmed and the main speaker took his place at the computer, turned his microphone on and his presentation began. At the beginning of his speech, he told the people that if they paid attention and were quick on their feet, money might actually fall into their laps during the seminar.

Money-making slogans and get-rich-quick mottos filled the slides projected onto to the wall of the conference room. The excitement was building with every click of the mouse. At one point in his presentation, the speaker paused for dramatic effect, pulled a string rigged up to a net above the crowd’s head, and dollar signs and balloons floated down from the ceiling. In their exuberance to find the “free money” the speaker promised, attendees were standing on their chairs trying to be the tallest person around them and therefore grab the winning dollar signs. One woman was a bit too excited and began jumping from chair to chair in an attempt to grab all of the paper that floated her way.

She grabbed one of the dollar signs, but as she jumped on a chair, it crumpled forward under the weight of her landing. She fell forward onto her knees and appeared to catch herself with her hands. The lady was helped up and provided an ice pack by the manager of the fitness center. She left the seminar that night embarrassed, but seemingly okay.

Several days later she contacted the fitness center about her injuries and they referred her to the rental store that provided the chairs. The lady was complaining of back pain, headaches and an inability to sleep. She had visited a chiropractor for the first of many times that morning. The rental store filed a claim with its insurance company that same day.

The owner of the rental store didn’t feel responsible for the woman’s injuries because of her own behavior and also due to the wording in the store’s rental contract. The contract contained a strong hold harmless and indemnity clause, which transfers responsibility for accidents to the renter. Another clause said the renter further agrees to legally defend the rental company in the event someone else suffers damage or injury from the use of the rental equipment. The rental contract also contained a clause warning against the risks of misuse or abuse of the rented equipment.

The woman did not know when she walked into the seminar that she would behave in a manner inconsistent with the intended use of the chairs. She probably did not even think about what she was doing until she was on the floor injured. In the end, the claim was denied and the woman was referred back to the fitness center due to the wording in the rental contract.

Rental stores never really know what will happen to the equipment once it leaves the premises. There are many other contract provisions that also serve to defend the rental company against claims arising from the renter’s use of the equipment. Examples include “Assumption of Risk,” “Warranty Waiver,” “Receipt” and “Inspection of Equipment, Safety Instructions, and Use of Equipment” clauses. Protect yourself and your equipment; make sure your rental contract is strong and effective.

Mary Ann Gormly, CERP, is risk management coordinator for ARA Insurance, Kansas City, Mo. For more information, call 800-821-6580
or visit ARAinsure.com.