Myles M. Mattenson
5550 Topanga Canyon Blvd.
Suite 200
Woodland Hills, California 91367
Telephone (818) 313-9060
Facsimile (818) 313-9260
"The Dangers Of Seeking Physical Perfection"

      Myles M. Mattenson engages in a general civil and trial practice including litigation and transactional services relating to the coin laundry and dry cleaning industries, franchising, business, purchase and sale of real estate, easements, landlord-tenant, partnership, corporate, insurance bad faith, personal injury, and probate legal matters.

      In providing services to the coin laundry and dry cleaning industries, Mr. Mattenson has represented equipment distributors, coin laundry and dry cleaning business owners confronted with landlord-tenant issues, lease negotiations, sale documentation including agreements, escrow instructions, and security instruments, as well as fraud or misrepresentation controversies between buyers and sellers of such businesses.

      Mr. Mattenson serves as an Arbitrator for the Los Angeles County Superior Court. He is also past chair of the Law Office Management Section of the Los Angeles County Bar Association. Mr. Mattenson received his Bachelor of Science degree (Accounting) in 1964 and his Juris Doctorate degree from Loyola University School of Law in 1967.

      Bi-monthly articles by Mr. Mattenson on legal matters of interest to the business community appear in alternate months in The Journal, a leading coin laundry industry publication of the Coin Laundry Association, and Fabricare, a leading dry cleaning industry publication of the International Fabricare Institute. During the period of May 1995 through September 2002, Mr. Mattenson contributed similar articles to New Era Magazine, a coin laundry and dry cleaning industry publication which ceased publication with the September 2002 issue.

      This website contains copies of Mr. Mattenson's New Era Magazine articles which can be retrieved through a subject or chronological index. The website also contains copies of Mr. Mattenson's Journal and Fabricare articles, which can be retrieved through a chronological index.

      In addition to Mr. Mattenson's trial practice, he has successfully prosecuted and defended appeals on behalf of his clients in various areas of the law. Some of these appellate decisions are contained within his website.


In our eagerness to be physically fit, we sometimes push ourselves a bit harder than we should or expose ourselves to dangerous conditions.

In a recent California case, a male plaintiff decided to work out at a gym with a personal trainer.  Prior to seeking to enhance his physical fitness, he had not been exercising or working out, was approximately 5'10" tall, and weighed 228 pounds.

The trainer was apparently shopping in the plaintiff’s furniture store when a conversation ensued.  The plaintiff indicated that he wanted to look like the trainer “buff and physically fit.”  After a brief discussion, the trainer agreed to provided physical fitness to the plaintiff at Gold’s Gym.  Plaintiff suffered a heart attack at the end of his first 60-minute training session.

Did the plaintiff assume the risk of this result?

The court noted that the doctrine of assumption of the risk is not limited, for example, to suffering a football injury while playing football “but applies to any physical activity that involves an element of risk or danger as an integral part of the activity.”

Fitness training under the guidance of a personal trainer was considered by the court to be such an activity.  As the court notes,

“Stress on the cardiovascular system as a result of the physical exertion that is an integral part of fitness training for the personal trainer is a risk inherent in the activity.  Eliminating that risk would alter the fundamental nature of the activity.”

The court decision notes that at the time of the initial workout session, the trainer put the plaintiff through a workout that started with 12 to 13 minutes on a level treadmill at a pace of three to four miles per hour.  He then had plaintiff sit on an incline bench and lift weights over his head.  The plaintiff performed 10 repetitions with 30 pound weights followed by 10 more repetitions with slightly heavier weights.  When the plaintiff asked for a break, the trainer said “Later,” and had the plaintiff do an additional 10 push-ups.  When the plaintiff again asked for a break, after telling the trainer that he was really tired and out of breath, the trainer said, “First give me 10 sit-ups.”

After the plaintiff completed the sit-ups, the trainer instructed him to return to the incline bench and repeat the earlier weight exercise but with heavier weights and at a faster tempo.

The trainer next had the plaintiff lie down on a mat and lift both legs simultaneously.  Plaintiff performed one leg lift and stopped.  The trainer grabbed the plaintiff’s legs and pushed them toward the plaintiff’s head 10 to 12 times.  Toward the end of this exercise, the plaintiff experienced chest pain but did not immediately tell his trainer.  Instead, he simply indicated that he was out of breath, couldn’t breathe, and needed some water.

After pouring water over his head, plaintiff laid down on the floor while he experienced extreme pain.  After about five minutes, plaintiff said “call 911, I think I’m having a heart attack.”

After surviving the heart attack, plaintiff next sought the advice of an attorney, and this litigation was commenced.

The essence of plaintiff’s claim was that the personal fitness trainer challenged him to perform beyond his level of physical ability and fitness.

The court notes, however,

“That challenge, however, is the very purpose of fitness training, and is precisely the reason one would pay for the services of a personal trainer.  Like the coach in other sports and physical activities, the personal trainer’s role in physical fitness training is not only to instruct the participant in proper exercise techniques but also to develop a training program that requires the participant to stretch his or her current abilities in order to become more physically fit.  The trainer’s function in that training process is, at bottom, to urge and challenge the participant to work muscles to their limits and to overcome physical and psychological barriers to doing so.  Inherent in that process is the risk that the trainer will not accurately access the participant’s ability and the participant will be injured as a result.”

The court thus concluded that in order to recover against the trainer, plaintiff would have to demonstrate that the trainer “acted either with intent to cause injury or that the trainer acted recklessly in that the conduct was ‘totally outside the range of ordinary activity” involved in personal fitness training.

In another recent California decision, the Woodland Hills, California, a health club branch of L.A. Fitness encountered a lawsuit as a result of an individual slipping and falling on a pool deck.  The day following the injury, he returned to the club and discovered an accumulation of algae on the drain on the pool deck, in the area where he fell.

The plaintiff sued L.A. Fitness alleging negligence.

L.A. Fitness sought to have the claim barred as a result of the plaintiff’s execution of a release and waiver signed under a membership agreement. [Reading the fine print is important in reviewing health club membership applications as well as coin laundry leases!]

Plaintiff, however, noted that the California Health and Safety Code provides “every person operating or maintaining a public swimming pool must do so in a sanitary, healthful and safe manner.”

The trial court determined that the release and waiver of liability in the membership agreement was effective to bar the plaintiff’s claim; however, the appellate court determined that in view of the statutory violation, the waiver and release clause was invalid.

The moral of the story?  Don’t walk into a furniture store expecting to find anything other than furniture!

[This column is intended to provide general information only  and
is  not intended to provide specific legal advice; if you have  a
specific  question  regarding the  law,  you  should  contact  an
attorney  of your choice.  Suggestions for topics to be discussed
in this column are welcome.]

Reprinted from The Journal
Myles M. Mattenson © 2006