Based on your question, the answer is "it depends." If the instructor is an employee of the gym, and the action for which you want to hold the instructor responsible was done in the scope of his job as an instructor for the gym, then the probable answer is "Yes," because employers are generally held responsible for the acts of their employees done in the course and scope of their employment. If the instructor was an independent contractor, or was doing something outside the course of his employment, then that may not be the case. If either of the latter scenarios, then you may need to demonstrate negligent hiring or supervision to hold the employer responsible. Contact a local lawyer through Avvo to obtain a specific answer.
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The question is whether or not the instructor is considered an employee of the gym. Generally speaking, an employer may be vicariously liable for torts committed by an employee under the respondeat superior doctrine. A gym is not automatically responsible for the actions of an independent contractor. In addition, in the gym context, there may have been release and waivers signed in connection with certain activities. You should have the facts of your case reviewed by an attorney so you know how to proceed.
The bigger question is why you brought a personal injury claim in small claims court and why you do not have an attorney.
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You need to consult with a personal injury attorney on this. Small claims court do not appear to correct. Missing facts but the attorney can help you through this. Best of luck.
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You have a tactical problem. If the waiver arguably doesn't cover the instructor, (the instructor may be an independent contractor which is very common in gyms), you may want to stay away from arguing the instructor is an employee. As an employee, he may have better argument for being covered by the waiver. You can sue for negligent hiring of an employee and you can also do that for an independent contractor. (proving that may be hard especially with no discovery) Negligent supervision is tough to argue if you want the instructor to be an independent contractor. One reason you hire independent contractors is because you don't want to have to supervise them. In fact if you exercise too much control/supervision over a contractor, they may be treated as an employee. There are complex issues and ways to go depending upon the facts and the contents of the waiver. Thus, unless you signed a separate contract with the instructor, or were specifically advised he was not an employee but independent, he may be an ostensible agent of the gym, and they could have vicarious liability on that basis. Id suggest you sit down with local counsel and go thru the details to craft your best strategy.
Short Answer: It depends.
Was the instructor an independent contractor? If the instructor was an employee, you must show that the employee committed the tort or injury in furtherance of the employer's objectives.
These claims are hard to prove, so I'd seek the advice of an attorney if your damages are high enough.
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