Woman Left with Permanent Spinal Injuries after Personal Trainer Instructs Her to Use Balance Trainer Incorrectly
Lamis Malouf, a 56-year-old woman, began working out with a personal trainer at a 24 Hour Fitness in San Francisco to lose the weight she’d gained as the result of chemotherapy drugs she was prescribed to treat breast cancer. Ms. Malouf’s trainer directed her to use a BOSU Balance Trainer in a manner the manufacturer expressly recommended against. As a result, Ms. Malouf fell backwards off the trainer and suffered a burst fracture of her T-12 vertebrae, requiring the insertion of hardware and a fusion surgery.
On July 16, 2013, Ms. Malouf was working out with her 24 Hour Fitness trainer, as she had done numerous times before. Her trainer instructed her to step onto the platform side of a BOSU Balance Trainer for balance exercises. This was directly contrary to the manufacturer’s recommendations against using the BOSU on the platform side due to the risk of falling. The exercise device had two warnings alerting users not to use the device in that manner.
Ms. Malouf’s trainer knew she was already at risk for falling, because the treatment she had undergone for breast cancer caused bone softening and compromised balance. Yet, despite her trainer knowing this information and despite BOSU’s multiple warnings to not use the device in this manner, Ms. Malouf was instructed to stand on the platform side of the BOSU. While doing squats on the BOSU, her personal trainer walked away, leaving Ms. Malouf with nothing to grasp onto and no way to steady herself if she lost her balance. In previous training sessions her trainer stood in front of her to help with balance. When her trainer walked away on this occasion, Ms. Malouf fell hard onto her back, resulting in serious spinal injuries that required surgery, physical therapy, a lifetime of pain management, and future surgeries.
The 24 Hour Fitness trainer denied all responsibility for the injuries, saying that, although she was aware of the warnings, she dismissed the manufacturer’s recommendation and continues to instruct her clients to use the BOSU as Ms. Malouf did. The trainer blamed Ms. Malouf for losing concentration while exercising, resulting in her fall. The trainer also denied walking away from Ms. Malouf, instead claiming that she was unable to catch Ms. Malouf as she was falling.
Ms. Malouf suffered a lumbar compression fracture, which required her to undergo a thoracic and lumbar spinal fusion, along with hardware insertion, and be admitted to a skilled nursing facility for 11 days. She is expected to need future surgeries, including an L4-5 discectomy within the next 10 years.
Ms. Malouf settled with the defendants for a total of $2.71M.