Gordon Rees Scully Mansukhani New York Partner Ryan Dempsey won a third consecutive unanimous defense verdict in six months on behalf of the firm’s client, a prominent retail fitness chain, following a week long jury trial in New York City.
The plaintiff, who was 47 years of age at the time, allegedly sustained severe bilateral knee injuries when an abdominal crunch machine she was using malfunctioned. The plaintiff claimed that a bolt connecting the arms of the ab crunch machine to the seat either broke, or became dislodged, and that she was catapulted out of the seat while attempting her first repetition, thereby striking both knees on the floor of the gym. As a result, the plaintiff allegedly sustained ligament tears in her knees requiring arthroscopic and knee replacement surgery. The plaintiff’s theory of liability against the retail fitness chain was that the abdominal crunch machine was negligently maintained and inspected, and the plaintiff also sought to establish liability under the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur.
At trial, Dempsey established that the health club facility neither caused, nor contributed to the spontaneous failure of the abdominal crunch machine bolt, which had actually sheared in half, while likewise demonstrating that the fitness chain did not have notice of the condition prior to plaintiff’s accident. Dempsey also defeated the plaintiff’s request for a res ipsa jury charge, arguing that the plaintiff failed to demonstrate that the abdominal crunch machine, and more particularly, the bolt in question, were within the defendant’s exclusive control. Dempsey also prevailed at trial with several motions in limine on evidentiary issues relating to the admissibility of certain medical records and proof of future medical care costs.
At the conclusion of the case, the plaintiff’s counsel asked the jury for an award of $800,000 in damages. After deliberating for thirty minutes, the jury returned a unanimous verdict finding that the health club facility was not negligent.
The two other unanimous defense verdicts in 2018 on behalf of the firm's health club client obtained by Dempsey were in June and November.