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COVID-19

Lawsuits target fitness centers continuing to bill during COVID-19 pandemic

John Fitzgerald  

John Fitzgerald  

(April 2, 2020) - Multiple federal lawsuits have taken aim at fitness centers that continue to bill customers while shuttered under mandatory nonessential business bans or social distancing orders during the COVID-19 outbreak.

New York resident Mary Namorato filed a complaint March 26 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York alleging Town Sports International LLC continues to bill members of its 186 fitness centers, including New York Sports Clubs, in eight eastern states and Washington, D.C.
 
Florida resident Kip Barnett sued Fitness International LLC, doing business as LA Fitness, March 30 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, similarly alleging the company continued to bill customers through March at its more than 700 locations across the U.S.
 
Both companies’ fitness centers closed their doors March 16 due to the coronavirus pandemic after some states instituted outright bans on nonessential businesses and others encouraged citizens to stay at home and practice social distancing of at least 6 feet while in public.
 
The two suits seek damages on behalf of nationwide classes of customers who were not permitted to cancel memberships or receive reimbursed fees.
 

Billing allegedly continues

Namorato joined New York Sports Club in January 2019 for $69.99 per month, and her credit card was automatically charged for March 2020, her suit says.
 
She alleges she contacted the club through its customer service email address March 17 and later through Facebook to ask about suspension or cancellation of membership charges but has not received a response.
 
Barnett’s suit, meanwhile, says he has been a member of LA Fitness for more than 14 years on a month-to-month contract. He says he had already paid his $32.09 membership dues for March when the club closed its doors.
 
LA Fitness sent a notice to members March 20 that it was closing its doors at least through March 31 and furloughing its staff. The notice added that it would suspend April billing but not offer refunds for the unused portion of March.
 
According to the complaint, members received a notice March 30 in which LA Fitness apologized for not refunding March dues and offered a free one-month membership extension or a free three-month membership to a family member or friend. To receive these benefits, though, members had to agree to terms of service that included a clause absolving the company of liability for the March membership fees, the suit says.
 

2 class-action lawsuits

Namorato asserts claims against Town Sports for breach of contract and violation of provisions of New York’s General Business Law, N.Y. Gen. Bus. Law §§ 349 and 624, by misrepresenting that the gyms would provide accessible services and refusing to allow people to cancel their memberships.
 
Barnett asserts claims against Fitness International for unjust enrichment and negligence.

Namorato v. Town Sports International LLC et al., No. 20-cv-2580, complaint filed, 2020 WL 1496458 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 26, 2020).

Barnett v. Fitness International LLC, No. 20-cv-60658, complaint filed (S.D. Fla. Mar. 30, 2020).

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