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Weightlifter’s suit against health club Falls Short Butt v. Equinox 63rd Street, Inc., NYLJ, 1 June 2016 p. 22, ____A.D. 3d _____ (1st Dept. 2016)

August 1, 2016 • Posted By Joseph A. French • Insurance Coverage

            In this decision, the First Department affirmed the lower court’s grant of summary judgment to the defendant health club.

            The plaintiff was injured while weightlifting under the supervision of a personal trainer.  It was established that “plaintiff was an experienced weightlifter, that he understood the techniques involved and the inherent risks in the sport from publications, and from his personal training sessions.”  He also knew and “appreciated the 230 to 240 pounds of weight the personal trainer had set up on his barbell for a single, bench press to close out the training session, and that he elected to attempt the bench press when the trainer encouraged him following plaintiff’s brief questioning of the amount of weight.”  Accordingly, the Court determined that plaintiff appreciated the risks involved in lifting such a significant weight and that he “voluntarily assumed the common and inherent risks associated with the sport.”

            In considering the significant risk defense, the Court had no evidence that the personal trainer who stood behind plaintiff and spotted for him, did not pay adequate attention to plaintiff.  The trainer assisted plaintiff when plaintiff’s lift failed.  “Plaintiff also offered no expert testimony to indicate that the weight lifted at the time of his injury was inordinate and beyond his capacity.  

Plaintiff admittedly bench pressed 220 pounds on a repetition basis earlier in the same training session and had lifted more weight in the past.”

            Thus, we believe the assumption of risk defense was appropriately asserted, and plaintiff’s suit was properly dismissed.