Bad Judgment by Personal Trainer Causes Lawsuit

By Doyice Cotten

8697450198_95c3256c65_zMany things can cause accidents in a health club – and a negligence suit is sometimes the result. Causes include equipment failure, slick floor surface, inattention of the personal trainer, carelessness by the client, and many more. In the case addressed here, the cause was largely due to the faulty judgment of the personal trainer. The following describes the events leading up to the injury of Patricia Evans in a Pennsylvania health club:

On November 12, 2014, Evans was participating in a personal training session at LA Fitness with personal trainer Brandon McElwee. During the session, McElwee directed Evans to perform “suicide runs,” an activity that required Evans to repeatedly run forward to a weight and touch it and then run backward to the start line. At one point during the suicide runs, McElwee told Evans to go “faster, faster.” While Evans was backpedaling she fell backward. As a result of the fall, Evans fractured both of her wrists. Evans was 61 years old at the time of her injury. (Evans v. Fitness & Sports Club, LLC., 2016)

Let’s look at McElwee’s possible judgment errors for a moment.

  1. He seemingly failed to grasp the fact he was training a 61 year old woman– not a 19 year old coed.
  2. The activity seems to be a very vigorous task and involves running toward a weight, which presents another hazard; McElwee was fortunate Evans did not fall over the weight.
  3. A speed activity that involves an unfamiliar activity such as running backwards as fast as you can while urging “faster, faster” is certainly questionable – particularly with senior adults. This might be more acceptable with elementary children on a grassy area.
  4. Choosing an activity with the name “suicide run” is questionable. Games with names like “suicide run,” “murder,” “war,” and “kill” sound dangerous and are hard to justify in the event of an accident.
  5. Finally, the choice of this activity for a senior makes one wonder how it fit with the fitness goals of the client.

Some of you may find some judgment errors that I missed. Others may feel that some of these five points are not important. But the fact is, a client was seriously injured and the injury could have been avoided by considering the RISK involved in the activity … risk management??

Prior to joining the club, Evans signed a membership agreement containing a liability waiver; also, prior to working with the personal trainer, she signed another waiver of liability. Those waivers, Pennsylvania waiver law, and the results of the lawsuit will be addressed in  the post next week.

Photo Credit: Thanks to Torbakhopper on Flickr.