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March 2018

Gordon & Rees Attorneys Obtain Unanimous Defense Verdict for Major Health Club Client in Premise Liability Case

Gordon Rees Scully Mansukhani New Jersey Senior Counsel Eric Evans and Westchester Associate Jonathan Alvarez obtained a unanimous defense verdict for a major health club after a four-day jury trial in the Superior Court of New Jersey, Essex County.

The plaintiff, a 73-year-old female member of the health club was working out with a personal trainer when she tripped over a weight lifting belt causing her to fall. The plaintiff sustained a fractured hip which required two surgeries.  The plaintiff was participating in a bi-weekly, one-hour personal training session with a personal trainer employed by the firm's client when she fell.

At trial, the plaintiff contended that the personal trainer had wandered off to find hand weights for their next exercise and that this was the first time the personal trainer left the plaintiff during a personal training session. The plaintiff alleged that the personal trainer directed her to walk over to her to perform the next exercise. The plaintiff testified that she was engaged in conversation with the personal trainer and the personal trainer directed her to “hustle” which caused the plaintiff to be distracted as she walked towards her and caused her to trip over the weight belt.

Gordon & Rees was able to get the plaintiff to concede that she was familiar with the particular gym having been there twice a week for the past four months before the accident and, as such, she was aware that equipment was on the floor. Gordon & Rees got the plaintiff to concede that she was independent for her age and did not need assistance to walk in similar settings. The plaintiff also conceded that she was not careful when walking. Lastly, Gordon & Rees got the weight lifting belt into evidence and used it to show the jury that the belt was an open and obvious condition obviating the duty to warn.

Immediately before trial, the plaintiff demanded $800,000 and an offer of $125,000 was rejected. The case was heard by six jurors. After deliberating for approximately 30 minutes, the jury unanimously decided the health club was not negligent for this accident.

Eric T. Evans