Morrison Mahoney Partner Sean Milano recently received a defense verdict after a four-day jury trial in the Middlesex County Superior Court. Our client was a national health and fitness club, at which the plaintiff was a very active member. The plaintiff sustained a compound fracture to her elbow when she fell while exiting a treadmill in a group “boot camp” class, in which participants alternated between cardio and strength exercises. The plaintiff alleged that she tripped on a kettle bell weight placed between treadmills by a group class member, who was using an adjacent treadmill. That version of events was memorialized by the defendant club in its incident report prepared by the group class coach. The medical record prepared by the responding EMTs contained a different version of the event, which referenced the plaintiff’s own alleged statement that she was attempting to get off the treadmill rapidly, while it was still moving, lost her balance and fell.
Plaintiff settled shortly before trial with the class member who placed the kettle bell weight between the treadmills. Plaintiff elected to try the case against the fitness club alone on the theory that the group class coach failed to properly instruct the class regarding the placement of weights in proximity to cardio equipment and failed to adequately supervise the group class. Both sides introduced expert testimony as to the standard of care required for a group exercise class and its coach. The defense presented witness and medical record evidence supporting defendant’s closing argument that the more credible version of the accident was that the plaintiff misstepped and fell, as she hurried to exit the treadmill. The settling club member, who by Court Order could not be identified as a former defendant, provided important testimony that the kettle bell she placed between treadmills was in the exact same position before and after the plaintiff fell.
Plaintiff’s medical expenses totaled $58,000 for the internal fixation procedure that required two plates and 9 screws and the subsequent removal of that hardware 8 months later. Plaintiff was out of work for 5 and ½ months, which represented lost earnings of $66,000. Notably, plaintiff counsel chose not to introduce evidence of plaintiff’s medical bills or lost earnings, but rather focused on the pain and trauma of the initial injury and plaintiff’s ongoing claimed pain, loss of function and diminished active lifestyle. In closing argument, plaintiff’s counsel asked the jury to award the plaintiff $2 million. The jury returned a “no negligence” defense verdict in 60 minutes.