Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Cybex Responds to $66 Million Verdict
The chairman and CEO of fitness equipment manufacturer Cybex International says "it is difficult to understand the jury's decision" in the recent $66 million verdict in favor of a New York woman whose vertebra was crushed by a Cybex leg-extension machine that fell on her six years ago. |
Natalie Barnhard, 30, of Buffalo, N.Y., was using the weight machine to do shoulder stretches when the accident occurred at Amherst Orthopedic Physical Therapy in Buffalo in 2004, according to her attorney, Kevin English. Barnhard, then 24, had one hand on top of the machine, and it fell on top of her when she stretched back with her shoulder and arm. Today, she is a quadriplegic with a website chronicling her recovery.
In a Dec. 13 memo to all Cybex shareholders and posted on the company's website, chairman and CEO John Aglialoro wrote that "it is difficult to express the sense of injustice that management and employees of our company feel about the unfairness of this award and the strength of our belief that this accident was not the fault of our equipment. The trial is one more example of a tort system run amok. ... We intend to exercise all legal remedies to get the verdict overturned."
Aglialoro also noted that the leg-extension machine weighs more than 600 pounds, and that particular unit had been used more than one million times with no similar tragedies occurring. "It has a seat and is used by sitting on the seat and pushing the legs to strengthen them," he continued in the memo. "Used in the manner intended, it is physically impossible to tip over — the plaintiff clearly understood how to use a leg extension as she was an employee in the facility where the accident occurred. This is not a design flaw — it is a terribly unfortunate result of plaintiff’s decision to use the leg extension in a manner which is still not clear and which had the disastrous result for which all of us feel great sympathy. The fact remains that this was not faulty equipment and not the responsibility of Cybex. ... We believe the trial was flawed beginning with the initial decision to allow plaintiff
to use as counsel a firm that had represented Cybex in the past and which should
have been disqualified as plaintiff counsel, as well as the fact that the judge excluded
testimony from the only eyewitness."
To read the entire memo, click here.
Cybex is responsible for $49.5 million of the judgment — which "would likely bankrupt" the company, according to analyst Reed Anderson of D.A. Davidson & Co. Cybex's available insurance coverage for this claim is less than $4 million, the company says. Shares of Cybex plunged 37 percent in the wake of the verdict announcement last week.