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 membership fee 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 required 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 Judgment of the AG Bremen of 25 April 2022 (9 C 43/22): The fitness center must adhere to the already confirmed termination date
The District Court of Bremen has ruled that a confirmation of a termination date does not represent a mere statement of knowledge, but an offer to enter into a termination agreement (§ 140 BGB), which is / was accepted by the member. A further extension of the contract and the question of the applicability of § 313 para. 1 BGB was / is no longer relevant. This applies first and foremost to cases where there is a confirmation from the fitness center regarding the contractually stipulated termination date, and the fitness center subsequently requests an extension of the fitness study contract with reference to section 313, subsection. 1, of the German Civil Code.
V. Costs for out-of-court representation are 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 that arise as part of an 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