Aspiring bodybuilder sued gym over machine's cable failure
|Res Ipsa Loquitur, Recreation, Premises Liability - Gym, Premises Liability - Negligent Repair and/or Maintenance|
|Lawrence Brodie v. TSI Freehold d/b/a New York Sports Club and Town Sports International, No. MON-L-5629-06|
|Monmouth County Superior Court, NJ|
|David F. Bauman
- Eric C. Landman; Law Offices of Herbert I. Ellis, P.C.; Freehold, NJ, for Lawrence Brodie
- Donald G. Derrico; Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker LLP; White Plains, NY, for TSI Freehold, Town Sports International
- Matthew S. Mahoney; Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker LLP; Florham Park, NJ, for TSI Freehold, Town Sports International
On Dec. 12, 2004, plaintiff Lawrence Brodie, 36, a tractor-trailer driver for the postal service, was working out at the New York Sports Club in Freehold when the cable on the piece of exercise equipment he was using reportedly snapped. Brodie subsequently was treated for muscle tears to one of his shoulders.
Brodie sued the club (in the form of its two separate corporate-ownership entities) on a negligence theory of res ipsa locquitur.
Brodie's suit contended that the lateral-pull-down adjustable weight machine he was using should not have experienced a cable failure, and that the cable failure was the proximate cause of the left shoulder tear he experienced immediately after the cable snapped.
The defense argued that the club had properly maintained its equipment, and that it was not self-evident that Brodie's mishap was the proximate cause of the injury that Brodie allegedly incurred.
When the chain on the lateral-pull-down exercise machine broke, Brodie claimed, he fell from the machine, landed on his left shoulder, and experienced a sharp pain in that shoulder.
Consultation with an orthopedic specialist confirmed left-shoulder muscle tears. Surgery was recommended.
At the time of the incident, Brodie reportedly was training to become a professional bodybuilder. Because of Brodie's bodybuilding competitive goals and training regime, he deferred the surgery for six years, and trained around his shoulder pain. By the time Brodie elected to have the surgery on his left shoulder, he allegedly had developed a compensating condition in his right shoulder, and surgery was then recommended for that shoulder as well.
During a first surgery on his left shoulder, Brodie allegedly developed an ulnar-nerve impingement in his right arm due to improper positioning in the surgery chair, and open surgery was required for that repair. Arthroscopic surgery was also later performed on his left shoulder. The three surgeries allegedly left Brodie with permanent keloid scars.
The defense contested the existence of the initial left-shoulder injury and of the alleged compensatory right-shoulder condition.
The defense alternatively argued that the delay in undergoing the allegedly necessary surgeries increased Brodie's injuries, and that the extent of these injuries would have been lessened if he had undergone left-shoulder surgery when it was initially recommended.
The defense also argued that Brodie had clearly failed to mitigate his damages -- and, in fact, had complicated the treatment of his injuries -- by failing to have the recommended arthroscopic surgery on his left shoulder in a timely fashion. The defense contended that Brodie's competitive bodybuilding goals did not reasonably offset his duty to mitigate his claimed damages.
It was stipulated that Brodie's incurred medical expenses totaled $45,000.
The plenary portion of the jury trial concluded on the Friday before Hurricane Sandy hit New Jersey. Although there had been a plan to begin jury deliberations that Monday, the storm emergency caused a two-week interruption.
Following the storm-related interruption, the jury was reassembled, and eventually deliberated for a little more than an hour before returning with a question about the definition of "approximate cause." Before the court was ready to answer that question, the jury asked a second question concerning damages. Then, before either question could be answered by the court, the jurors announced that they had reached a verdict.
The jurors found that the defendants' negligence had been the proximate cause of Brodie's injuries, and that his election to defer the recommended surgery did not constitute a failure to mitigate his damages. The jurors awarded Brodie the entire $45,000 in stipulated medical expenses, but declined to award him any compensatory damages. All aspects of the verdict were unanimous.
Plaintiff's counsel has filed a motion for additur or, in the alternative, a new trial on damages, on the grounds that the jury improperly failed to return any compensatory damages despite the findings that the defendants' negligence proximately caused the plaintiff to incur damages for which he was entitled to a full recovery of his medical expenses, and that the delay in treatment did not increase any of his injuries.
This report is based on information that was provided by plaintiff's counsel. Defense counsel declined to contribute.