Gordon Rees Scully Mansukhani New York Partner Ryan Dempsey successfully obtained a unanimous defense verdict on behalf of the firm’s client, a prominent retail fitness chain, after a five-day jury trial in Manhattan, New York.
The plaintiff, who was 33 years of age at the time, allegedly sustained a significant right wrist fracture while using an elliptical machine at the health club facility. The plaintiff alleged that the elliptical machine was located in an alcove area of the gym and positioned too close to a wall. As she moved the arms on the elliptical, she claimed that her wrist got caught between the wall and the arm of the machine, thereby sustaining an intra-articular fracture of the right (dominant) distal radius.
The plaintiff’s theory of liability against the health club facility was that the elliptical machine was negligently maintained and inspected, and that its positioning constituted a hazardous, trap-like condition. The plaintiff’s settlement demand prior to trial was $225,000.
At trial, Dempsey was able to establish that the plaintiff was distracted and not paying attention to her surroundings when she started using the elliptical, a machine with which she was, by her own admission, entirely unfamiliar. The plaintiff was likewise unable to articulate how close, or far the machine supposedly was from the wall at the time of her accident with any specificity. Dempsey was also able to demonstrate that the wall adjacent to the alleged miss-positioned machine was open and obvious, which the plaintiff failed to observe, and that the plaintiff assumed the risk of injury. Perhaps more importantly, Dempsey completely obliterated the credibility of the plaintiff’s notice witness on cross-examination, who was essential for the plaintiff to prove her case.
After deliberating for 35 minutes, the jury returned a unanimous verdict finding that the health club facility was neither negligent, nor responsible for plaintiff’s accident.