Treadmill Injury Claim Dismissed; Plaintiff Assumed the Risk

In Ingram v. Life Fitness, 2016 NY Slip Op 05085 (App. Div. 1st Dept. June 28, 2016), the court reversed a denial of summary judgment to defendants, and directed the clerk to enter judgment dismissing the complaint.

In her complaint, plaintiff alleged that, while she was attempting to step on a treadmill – identified in the complaint as a Life Fitness treadmill bearing model number 95Ti and serial number TTJ 1011097 – at defendant’s gym, the treadmill “was running at a high speed causing her to be thrown off to the floor … causing her to sustain serious and permanent injuries.”

As to plaintiff’s negligence claim, the court explained:

The negligence claim is barred as a matter of law by the doctrine of primary assumption of the risk. Plaintiff’s testimony established that she was a long-time user of treadmills, that she used defendant Town Sports International Holdings, Inc.’s sports club five times a week after joining it, that she had several times seen other club members jump off treadmills that were still running, and that she had used treadmills at the club at least 10 times. Given plaintiff’s familiarity with the use and operation of treadmills, she assumed the obvious and inherent risks attendant to their use. Plaintiff failed to raise a triable issue of fact as to whether defendant Town Sports concealed or unreasonably increased [those] risks.

The court held that plaintiff’s strict products liability claim must be dismissed, in the absence of evidence that the subject treadmill was defective. Specifically:

Plaintiff alleges a design defect relating to the feature of the treadmill intended automatically to stop the treadmill after 30 seconds of non-use (“SmartStop”). Defendant Life Fitness, the manufacturer, demonstrated that the treadmill complied with industry safety standards, which do not require automatic stopping mechanisms, and that the treadmill had another safety feature to alert users to the moving of the belt. Plaintiff admitted that she walked right up to [the treadmill] and stepped onto it; thus, she had no way of knowing whether or not 30 seconds had elapsed since its last use.

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