Treadmill and Gym Injuries Offsetting Exercise Benefits, CPSC Says
Gregg Hollander | October 2, 2016 | Premise Liability
Getting a workout is supposed to be beneficial to our health. However, there is growing evidence that certain equipment at the gym could be offsetting some of those benefits.
Every single year, thousands of Americans are suffering serious injuries – including torn muscles, strained backs and broken bones – and even death from:
- Falling off exercise equipment
- Pushing weights that are too heavy
- Dropping heavy weights
Of course, many who join a gym or exercise understand there may be some inherent risk in using certain equipment. However, when injuries occur, the question often becomes whether that risk was unreasonable. In some cases, there may be grounds for a product liability lawsuit. This would apply in cases where, for example, the equipment was defective or the manufacturer failed to warn of some danger that was known but not obvious. However, many of these cases involve some form of premises liability, when it’s alleged the gym failed to maintain adequate distance from other pieces of equipment. In the latter type of lawsuits, plaintiffs often must first overcome challenges posed by their previous signing of liability waivers as part of their membership. Usually, this involves asserting gross negligence, which liability waivers do not protect against.
According to a recent article published by The Sacramento Bee, some 460,000 injuries treated at hospital emergency rooms annually involve exercise equipment. A significant portion of those involve treadmills. That’s based on figures from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
You may recall the recent case involving U.S. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid who was seriously injured at his home in Nevada when a latex exercise band he was using snapped and struck him in the face. He has since filed a $50,000 injury lawsuit against the manufacturer for product liability.
For those in gyms, it’s worth noting most state and federal inspectors are not trained to inspect gym equipment or make sure it’s properly spaced in the setting. In most cases, even when fire inspectors are typically only looking for things like whether the exits are are blocked.
The result is that gym members are vulnerable to injury. Take for example a woman who in 2011 at age 60 suffered a traumatic brain injury after fainting while working out on a treadmill. She fell backward and struck her head on equipment positioned behind her. The result was that her skull was fractured in multiple places. She spent four months hospitalized and had to undergo numerous brain surgeries. Physically and cognitively, she’ll never be the same. She is now suing the gym for $3.8 million in damages in hopes of recovering not just her medical bills but long-term care and help with household chores she can no longer complete.
It’s estimated approximately 24,000 people are injured every year in treadmill accidents, most of which involve bone fractures, burns and abrasions. There are many cases in which the issue is operator error – i.e., someone got distracted or reached for some water or something of that nature. While that may be grounds for a defendant to assert contributory negligence, it doesn’t necessarily negate the fact that treadmill manufacturers have a duty to make a safe product and gyms have a duty to make sure it’s properly spaced. When these entities fail in those duties, they can be held liable.
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Brain-injury lawsuit highlights treadmill risks, Sept. 26, 2016, By Claudia Buck, Sacramento Bee