A State Supreme Court jury has awarded $980,000 to a woman for her pain and suffering after discs in her neck were damaged during a workout at a local gym.

The total award was $1.4 million, including $400,000 for past pain and suffering and $1 million for future pain and suffering. The woman was found 30% responsible for the damage, leaving the gym to absorb 70% of the award.

The woman’s attorney said that after his client underwent a cervical fusion to remove degenerated discs in her neck, doctors instructed her to stay fit and active to help avoid any future neck issues.  She hired a personal trainer at the gym after explaining her surgical history and restrictions.

The trainer designed a workout that involved a series of three strenuous exercises performed back to back with no rest said the attorney. His client questioned the workout, and the trainer assured her it was safe.

The woman awoke that night in excruciating pain and has never recovered, claiming the workout caused permanent damage to the discs above and below the original fusion, requiring an additional fusion as well as the installation of a titanium plate and titanium rods.

The woman’s surgeon testified that there is no surgery available to address all of the damage caused by the workout or to relieve all of her pain.  As a result, the attorney said, she will have headaches, chronic pain in her neck and radiating arm pain for the rest of her life as well as severe and permanent restrictions on the range of motion in her neck.

SFIC INSURANCE EXPERT COMMENTS…

The claim outlined in the attached article is a professional liability claim based on the professional services rendered by the personal trainer. All independent trainers need to carry their own professional liability policy to protect themselves from these types of claims and all fitness facilities need to make sure that their policies carry full limits for professional liability.

If you employ independent contractors in your studio, they must carry their own insurance and name your facility as additional insured. You should also verify that your trainers are certified by a reputable licensing body and are current with their continuing education requirements.

This claim is severe because of a pre-existing condition and question of the appropriateness of the workout to the client’s medical history. In your facility, you set the rules for how your trainers should work with clients that have pre-existing conditions and how they should respond if a client expresses concerns about the safety or appropriateness of a workout. Make sure all your trainers follow your guidelines even if some (or all) of your trainers are independent.


John Graden
John Graden

John Graden is widely credited with leading the martial arts school business into the modern age. He is the founder of the first successful professional association and trade journal. MA Success editor John Corcoran first called him a “visionary” in 1995. Martial Arts World magazine dubbed him, The Teacher of Teachers. Mr. Graden’s leadership was recognized in many mainstream media outlets including a cover story on the Wall Street Journal, documentaries on A&E Network, and as a guest on the Dr. Oz Show and many others.

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