For the first time, the national company CrossFit Inc., was found at fault in a case where a member at one of the company’s 10,000 worldwide affiliates, represented by Rob Sullivan of Sullivan Law LLC, a Kansas City based personal injury law firm, was seriously injured while attempting a deadlift.
Kansas City, Mo. – September 27, 2016-Rob Sullivan of Sullivan Law LLC, a Kansas City, Missouri based personal injury law firm specializing in catastrophic personal injury cases on behalf of individuals and families, obtained a jury verdict in favor of a local CrossFit affiliate member who was seriously injured while attempting a deadlift. The Plaintiff, Jonas Barrish was also represented by attorneys Bianca Sullivan of Kansas City and Amir Ardebili of Kansas City. The lawsuit, alleging negligence against Sky’s Limit Fitness LLC dba Sky’s Limit CrossFit and negligence against CrossFit Inc., was filed in the Circuit Court for the 16th Judicial District, Kansas City, Jackson County, Missouri, Case No.: Case No. Case No. 1316-CV14357 before the Honorable John Torrence.
In the first case where the national company CrossFit Inc. has been found at fault for an injury suffered by a CrossFit participant at one of the company’s 10,000 worldwide affiliates, a Jackson County jury returned a $400,000 verdict against CrossFit Inc. of California and its affiliate gym Sky’s Limit Fitness LLC of Kansas City, dba Sky’s Limit CrossFit in a suit brought by Jonas Barrish after the former gym member suffered a serious spinal injury while participating in the CrossFit brand extreme fitness program.
“Our position at trial was that CrossFit is conditioning that is extreme in nature, involving very heavy weight-lifting exercises that seriously increase the risk and severity of injury,” Sullivan said. “Because of this, we argued CrossFit should not be marketed as being suitable for everyone, and people like our client need to be informed of the risks when they sign up for the program.”
“The evidence at trial was that the local gym failed to disclose any of the increased risks and, along with CrossFit Inc. headquarters, promoted the system as safe for everyone when it simply was not. In all of the training manuals used to train the individual gym owners, CrossFit’s experts at trial could not point to a single example where the individual gym owner is trained on injuries and risks associated with the Olympic and powerlifting movements that are an integral part of the CrossFit www.sullivantrial.com
“The evidence showed that CrossFit Inc., after requiring just a 2-day training program and no prior experience, can approve the opening of one of these affiliates using the CrossFit name. The evidenceat trial was that the only requirements for opening an affiliate gym is the 2-day course and a $3,000 annual fee. The testimony of CrossFit’s corporate representative at trial confirmed that CrossFit does not prescribe any specific programs that the affiliates use and conducts no oversight of the affiliates to make sure that the welfare of the participants is being safeguarded.” Sullivan said. In the verdict handed down in Barrish v. Sky’s Limit CrossFit, 9 of 12 jurors found in favor of plantiff Barrish, who chose the CrossFit workout in part because of promised supervision from a trained CrossFit professional with the experience and training of CrossFit Inc. behind him. The jury awarded a total of $400,000, assigning 50 percent fault to plaintiff Barrish, 25 percent fault to local gym Sky’s Limit CrossFit and 25 percent the national company CrossFit Inc.
According to testimony presented at trial, Barrish, 36, was attempting to reach a one repetition maximum “deadlift” of 350 pounds when he felt something in his back snap and collapsed. Witness testimony stated that a CrossFit coach attempted to stretch out Barrish’s back after he collapsed, in spite of Barrish initially stating that he was unable to feel his legs. A subsequent MRI revealed Barrish sustained an extruded herniated disc with a complicating condition requiring immediate surgery. The condition known as cauda equina syndrome can impede bowel and bladder functions and cause permanent loss of those functions if not treated.
“The difference between my client’s injury and a typical herniated disc is that the spine was not simply strained, causing the cushioning material between the vertebrae to simply slip out, but instead this material ‘shot out’ from between the vertebrae and into the spinal column and surrounding nerves,” Sullivan said. “It takes a tremendous amount of force for this type of an injury to happen. It is something that is more typically seen in a traumatic event, such as a bad car wreck.”
After surgical correction to his spine, Mr. Barrish can walk normally and has normal bowel and bladder function. However, he does have long-term restrictions; he is unable to do any impact exercising, running or jogging without risking further injury to his back, and he is permanently limited to lifting only light weights. Because of this injury, doctors say he will require a second “fusion” back surgery within the next 10-15 years.