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New York Supreme Court, Erie County

In this matter, a woman sued after being rendered quadriplegic when an exercise machine fell on her. The defendant manufacturer asserted the plaintiff’s own negligence in misuse of the machine, as well as assigning blame to a third party defendant for not securing the machine to the ground.

In October ________, the plaintiff was at her place of employment, the Amherst Orthopedics Physical Therapy center in Cheektowaga, New York. The plaintiff was monitoring a patient when she grabbed the top bar of the exercise machine to stretch. The ________ pound leg extension machine fell on her, pinning her to the ground by her neck. It took four people to lift the machine off of her. The machine landing on her neck damaged the plaintiff’s spinal cord, resulting in C-5 quadriplegia. The plaintiff has no dexterity in her hands, and requires round-the-clock home care.

The plaintiff filed suit in the New York Supreme Court, Erie County for product liability, arguing defective design and failure to warn. The plaintiff named Cybex Inc., the manufacturer of the machine, as the defendant. Cybex also filed suit against Amherst Orthopedics as a third party defendant, asserting that it should have bolted the machine to the floor or instructed its employees not to use it as a stretching bar. The plaintiff rejected Cybex’s pretrial settlement offer of $2 million.

In an eight week trial, the plaintiff asserted that the device was defectively designed, specifically asserting that its ________ pounds of stacked weights were too high off the ground, and further that the machine lacked stability on the side where the weights were stacked. An engineering expert testified that this created a tipping hazard with only 40 pounds of force. The plaintiff’s expert testified that it should be able to withstand at least ________ pounds of force.

The defendants argued that it was the negligence of the plaintiff that caused the machine to fall. They argued that the design had endured millions of sessions without similar incidents. The plaintiff countered this by putting into evidence a video of a similarly-sized woman stretching on a machine in a similar fashion. The machine tipped with little effort. The plaintiff further pointed out that, while there were no written standards at the time of the machine’s manufacture, later models of a similar type were redesigned to be more stable. The defendant’s expert asserted that the overall chances of an overturning were ________ million to one. Cross-examination, however, showed that this included machines of different models and designs that may have secured to the floor.

The defendant also contested damages, with the plaintiff presenting normal life expectancy as being 81 years. The defense disputed this, arguing that as a quadriplegic, her life expectancy was now only 64 years.The jury, six men, awarded future medical expenses that assumed a life expectancy of 72 years, totaling $________ million. They further awarded $33 million in past and future pain and suffering. The total jury verdict was $66 million, including additional damages for past and future lost earning and medical expenses. Cybex was found 75% at fault, the employer 20% responsible, and the plaintiff 5% percent at fault.

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