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Washington D.C. Defendant Not Liable In Personal Injury Case Involving Back Injury

Plaintiff Julia Kerr filed a personal injury claim against Washington D.C.-based CrossFit Inc. in a Missouri State Court. Kerr was seeking roughly $3 million in damages for a back injury she incurred while lifting weights at No Shelter CrossFit located in St. Louis. The defendant was alleged to have provided her improper instructions for performing the exercise and it resulted in a herniated disc injury. Testimony revealed that Kerr did not see a doctor until several weeks after the incident. The defense asserted that Kerr had failed to inform the trainer that she had a pre-existing back condition.

Jury Findings

The defense contended that they would not have allowed Kerr to perform the exercise if they had been aware of her pre-existing condition. It took the jury just slightly over two hours to determine that CrossFit had “zero liability” in the matter. A company spokesperson went further to say that the trainer had done a good job of instructing her on that day. The company has faced other lawsuits in recent years for incidents involving similar injuries.

Prior Case

Plaintiff Jonas Barrish brought a personal injury suit against CrossFit Inc. and a gym owner in a court located in Jackson County, Missouri. Barrish was injured after attempting to lift 350 pounds at Sky’s Limit CrossFit gym in Kansas City. Barrish underwent surgery on his spine shortly after the injury. The case went to a jury that ruled in a 9-3 vote in favor of him and awarded him $400,000 in damages. CrossFit and Sky’s Limit were each deemed 25% liable in the matter and Barrish was 50% liable. CrossFit has suggested that they will be filing an appeal in this matter.

Plaintiff’s Negligence

A report from indicated that this was believed to be the first time CrossFit was found to be liable in a lawsuit. An attorney for Barrish felt that the jury allocated entirely too much fault to him. He felt that the percentage should have been closer to 10%. A statement from CrossFit alleged that the judge and jury conducted the case in an “unprofessional” manner. Prior to attempting to lift 350 pounds, the most weight he had lifted was 300 pounds.

Spinal Fusion

The American Association of Orthopedic Surgeons explains that a spinal fusion is basically a “welding process.” It is performed in order to treat the bones in the spinal region known as vertebrae. The two vertebrae are surgically fused in hopes that they will then function as one. Ordinarily, those electing for this procedure are experiencing significant pain and may have the following conditions:

  • Degenerative disk disease
  • Spondylolisthesis
  • Spinal stenosis
  • A fractured vertebra
  • An infection
  • A herniated disk
  • A tumor

Pure Comparative Fault

The state uses a “pure” comparative fault system for cases involving negligence. Plaintiffs may still recover damages even when they are found to have contributed significantly to the injury themselves. Any award for damages is simply reduced proportionally by the percentage allocated to the plaintiff. Comparative fault may be used as a defense. The plaintiff must prove that the negligent action(s) of the defendant was the “proximate cause” of injuries incurred.

About the Author

Charles GilmanCharles Gilman
Charles Gilman

As managing partner and co-founder of Gilman & Bedigian, it is my mission to help our clients recover and get their lives back on track. I strongly believe that every person who is injured by a wrongful act deserves compensation, and I will do my utmost to bring recompense to those who need and deserve it.


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