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June 2018

Gordon & Rees Westchester Attorney Ryan Dempsey Secures Defense Verdict Following Seven Day Jury Trial

Gordon Rees Scully Mansukhani Westchechster Senior Counsel Ryan Dempsey successfully obtained a unanimous defense verdict after a seven-day jury trial in Manhattan, New York on behalf of the firm's client, a prominent health club.

The plaintiff, a 33-year-old female and accomplished opera singer, alleged that she was injured by a dangerous/defective sub-surface light fixture while swimming within a pool at a major health club where she was a member. The plaintiff sustained a partial amputation of her left fifth finger, which required surgical repair and a full-thickness skin graft procedure wherein donor skin was harvested from inside of her left wrist. The plaintiff claimed that this procedure left her with substantial scarring at both the injury and the donor sites. The plaintiff’s theory of liability against the retail fitness chain was that the pool and subject light fixture therein were negligently maintained and inspected, and plaintiff also sought to establish liability under the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur.  The plaintiff’s settlement demand prior to trial was $300,000.

At trial, Dempsey was able to establish that the health club facility did not cause or create the alleged defective condition, which led to the spontaneous failure of the light fixture’s outer glass lens, while likewise demonstrating that the fitness chain had neither actual, nor constrictive notice of such condition prior to the plaintiff’s accident. Dempsey was also able to establish that the plaintiff failed to offer sufficient evidence at trial to support her contention that the subject light had been “out” for two weeks before the accident, to which the plaintiff’s friend had also testified, or that the pool was negligently maintained or inspected. Dempsey also prevailed at trial with several motions in limine on evidentiary issues.  As such, the trial judge ultimately precluded the plaintiff from offering any medical records as evidence, while also substantially limiting the scope of testimony from the plaintiff’s medical expert.

At the conclusion of the case, the plaintiff’s counsel asked the jury for an award of $600,000 in damages.  After deliberating for 25 minutes, the jury returned a unanimous verdict finding that the health club facility was not negligent.

Ryan E. Dempsey