Appeal in the Offing after Jury Rules Against Exercise Equipment Maker

Dec 17, 2010

A jury in New York state had found Cybex International Inc. responsible for $65.9 million in damages to a woman, Natalie M. Barnhard, who was paralyzed in a freak accident involving a leg extension machine manufactured by Cybex.
In a statement issued shortly after the verdict, CYBEX Chairman and CEO John Aglialoro said his company “will vigorously pursue all avenues to attain a reversal of this verdict.”
The verdict, rendered by a jury in the New York State Supreme Court for Erie County, followed an 8-week trial. It is believed to be the largest verdict of its kind in Erie County history, according to the firm that represented Barnhard, Phillips Lytle LLP.
Barnhard was working as a physical therapy assistant at Amherst Orthopedic Physical Therapy PC on Oct. 22, 2004 when the injured occurred. The machine, which weighed 608 pounds, toppled over on her as she tried to do a shoulder stretch, causing severe injuries.
Barnhard sued, claiming Cybex sold a defectively designed and unstable product. She also claimed Medway, a Mass.-based company, failed to give adequate warnings and instructions regarding the installation and anchoring requirements for the machine.
While Amherst Orthopedic was not targeted by the plaintiff, it was named as a third-party defendant in the case and found 20 percent liable for Barnhard’s injuries.
In a statement, Kevin English, a partner at Phillips Lytle, said the verdict was “a fair and just result.” Michael Law, another partner at the firm, added: “The size of the verdict is substantial but warranted because of what Natalie has endured over the past six years, and what she is facing for the rest of her life; it is absolutely appropriate.”
Meanwhile, Cybex’s Aglialoro pointed to the freak nature of the accident, which should have absolved his company.
“This piece of equipment has been in continuous operation for over 25 years in the same facility as Ms. Barnhard was injured to the current date, with no incidents reported other than this one event. We strongly believe that CYBEX was not negligent and is in no way responsible for this tragic accident.”
Cybex was also represented by Hurwitz & Fine PC. Amherst Orthopedic is represented by Baxter Smith & Shapiro PC.
Barnhard v. Cybex International, Inc.; S.Ct.N.Y. (Erie Co.); Case no. 2368/2005, 12/7/10


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