This is a three part series on protecting yoga studios and teachers from potential liability for personal injury claims. These claims would typically be based upon a theory of negligence: the teacher negligently adjusted a student or failed to supervise a student which was the proximate cause of the student’s injury. The student would sue both the teacher and the studio to recover for damages.
To protect yourself from liability for personal injury claims, use the three-limbed strategy. The strategy is:
1. All students must sign a well-drafted waiver and release of liability that releases both the studio and its teachers from liability. The release should be used for workshops, retreats and teacher training programs.
2. The yoga studio and the teachers must have effective insurance coverage.
3. The yoga studio and the teachers must use appropriate and careful teaching strategies to minimize the risk of harm to the students and the potential for a claim or a lawsuit if they suffer an injury in class.
Part 1-The Waiver and Release of Liability for Yoga Studios and Teachers
A key element in protecting yoga studios and teachers from liability for personal injury is the waiver and release of liability. Most studios and teachers routinely require all new students to sign releases. However, this may not be enough. The release must be legally effective and enforceable, otherwise it will not protect the studio or the teacher. If you are not using a professionally written release, it may be of little value.
An effective and enforceable release will place a studio and teacher in a better position to defend against a lawsuit for personal injury or to negotiate a reasonable settlement.
A release is especially important if the studio or teacher is not protected by their insurance policy. This could happen for many reasons, such as: if the claim is excluded from coverage, the premium has not been paid and coverage has lapsed, the insurance company denies paying the claim, the value of the claim exceeds the limits of the insurance policy, the claim is not filed within the time limits of the policy, or the insurance company is bankrupt.
Elements of an Effective and Enforceable Waiver and Release
A release should describe all of the services and activities provided by the studio; require the student to assume the risk of harm from participating in the activities; waive all claims against the studio, owners, teachers and independent contractors; and require the student to represent that he or she is in good medical condition such that participating in the activities is appropriate. Importantly, the waiver and release should place the burden on the student to practice in such a way that the student is responsible for avoiding any injury or aggravation of a pre-existing condition in the class.
The waiver and release must be an enforceable obligation of the student under the state law that governs the release.
Make Sure Teachers Are Covered
The waiver and release of liability should include teachers within the definition of the parties who are covered by the release. Many forms of release routinely used in the yoga world do not include the teachers within the scope of the release. Therefore, if you are a teacher you may not be covered by the release that the studio requires the students to sign.
You may obtain forms of release for yoga studios and teachers in my book Essential Information For Yoga Studios, Yoga Teachers and Wellness Businesses here: