The Minnesota Association for Justice, an organization composed of plaintiff's trial lawyers, regularly lobbies the state legislature to protect consumer's rights. Because consumers are our primary clients, as opposed to insurance companies, we can usually expect a fairly receptive audience in the legislature. This past session we were able to get the legislature to pass, and the governor to sign, a bill which puts some restrictions on what are known as "exculpatory clauses" in contracts. You might not think this applies to you, but if you are a member of the health club in the Twin Cities it probably does.
About three years ago in local Twin Cities man was at Lifetime Fitness, where he was a member, and was playing racquetball. The club had some construction work being done in the area and the club had not cleaned the surface of the racquetball court of the construction dust. Because of the dust the man slipped and broke his leg. Due to complications which set in, his leg was eventually amputated. He tried to sue the club for negligence but, buried in his contract that he signed when he joined the club was language which prevented this lawsuit. This "exculpatory clause" said that the member agreed that the club would not be liable for any injuries even if the club was negligent. The Court of Appeals of Minnesota held that this language was valid and binding in a decision rendered about two years ago. Since then the Minnesota Association for Justice has been trying to get the legislature to pass a law that prevents these sorts of contracts from being valid. That task was accomplished this past session.