Corona-related closure of gyms does not result in an extension of the contract

In a judgment of 28 March 2022, the district court of Ludwigsburg Az. 10 C 1877/21 that a fitness center is not entitled to an extension of a fitness study contract in the months following closure due to corona in accordance with § 313 (1) BGB.

In addition, the court ruled that out-of-court attorney fees in connection with the defense of such (unjustified) claims must be reimbursed by the gym.

I. Facts: Typical case of a permanent contract extension of the gym

The case was about a contractual dispute between a gym and a member. The member terminated correctly and in a timely manner in accordance with the gym contract.

During the corona-related closure – due to the inability of the gym – no contribution was paid by the member.

After the expiration of the notice period, the gym continued to demand payment of dues and extended the gym contract by the months following the corona-related closure. The fitness study referred to a disruption of the business basis and demanded a contractual adjustment in the form of a contract extension under § 313 BGB.

After several reminders from the gym and its law firm, the plaintiff (the member) or his legal representative filed a lawsuit claiming a declaratory judgment and demanded that the gym contract be terminated / terminated at the contractually agreed time.

In addition, the out-of-court costs were invoked as the allegation of unjustified claims from an ongoing contractual relationship required the involvement of a lawyer.

II. The court’s decision: § 313 BGB is not applicable

In the legal assessment, the court ruled that the officially ordered closure – the benefit owed by the defendant – under section 275 (1) BGB became impossible.

It informs the court further “The possibilities for a contractual adjustment regarding the interruption of the business basis pursuant to § 313 (1) of the BGB are not open at all.”

The confirmation of the facts in § 275 Abs. 1 BGB excludes – according to the court – the application of § 313 BGB due to the priority of this provision (Münchner commentary, BGB / Finkenauer, 8th edition 2019, § 313 marginal 155).

In the end, the question was whether there was an interruption of the contract basis under section 313 (1). 1, in the German civil law irrelevant.

III. Unjustified claim from the fitness center justifies interest in declaratory judgment / cause of action

In addition, the court stated that an unjustified claim for contributions for months beyond the contract period constitutes an interest in a determination pursuant to section 256 (1). -10).

IV Expenditure on extrajudicial representation is borne by the gym

The secondary decision also has significance here, where the court also awarded the plaintiff (the member) reimbursement of the out-of-court costs for legal assistance. As a starting point, the extrajudicial costs must, according to the law, be borne by the respective parties themselves. Only the costs of the proceedings shall be borne by the losing party.

Costs incurred in connection with out-of-court representation must be sought separately. In addition, there must be a substantial claim for reimbursement of such costs.

The court’s decision entails an enormous liability risk for the fitness centers, which would have been obliged in advance to repay / rely on lawyers’ fees if a valid contract extension or unjustified claims were made. It is still unknown to what extent the case law of the district court will be consolidated and a Supreme Court ruling from the Federal Court will be handed down on this issue.

We represent customers across the country when enforcing their rights or defending ourselves against unwarranted claims from gym operators. Some gym chains refrain from unilateral contract extensions even though they seek legal help, as legal clarification also poses a cost risk to the gym.

Lawyer Felix Kushnir works nationwide and specializes in civil, tenancy and business law. Further information and contact information: www.fk-kanzlei.de

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