Johnson & Bell, Ltd. Attorney, Katie E. Gorrie, obtained a successful result for her client, a private social club, after a two week trial in the Law Division for the Circuit Court of Cook County. During closing arguments, the plaintiff asked the jury for $1.1 million in damages. The jury returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiff, but awarded $50,100.
The plaintiff, a Chicago personal injury attorney, was a member of the club for over a decade. He suffered injuries after being thrown from a treadmill while working out in the club's fitness center. The plaintiff alleged the club was negligent because the treadmill was located too close to other treadmills. The plaintiff also alleged a product liability action against the treadmill manufacturer for defective design. At trial, the plaintiff testified the treadmill improperly accelerated and threw him into the treadmill behind him, causing a severe laceration to his leg. Due to the plaintiff's pre-existing medical condition (he was taking a blood thinner), plaintiff claimed he suffered medical complications after the incident. The plaintiff's expert opined that the club failed to institute the treadmill manufacturer's recommendations for spacing.
The defendant club denied these allegations. The club's Athletic Director, with multiple degrees and certifications in exercise science, testified the area was not hazardous, and industry custom and practice reflected similar equipment placement in other facilities throughout the city of Chicago. Other club employees testified the area was appropriately spaced. Further, the defense emphasized the lack of qualifications of the plaintiff's expert, who had no specialized education in the field of exercise science, and had never been employed in the field. The defense also emphasized the plaintiff's original reporting of the incident, in which he did not make any mention of the spacing of the treadmills, but rather indicated he lost his footing on the treadmill and was unaware of how he suffered the lacerations to his leg. The plaintiff's medical bills totaled over $130,000. As to the defendant club, the plaintiff demanded $850,000 prior to trial, but on the first day of trial, increased his demand to the club's policy limit of $1 million. On behalf of the club, no offer was given.
The plaintiff asked for $1.1 million from the jury during closing argument. The jury returned a verdict against the private social club in the amount of $50,100.