A Jackson County, Missouri, jury found CrossFit Inc. and one of its Kansas City affiliates at fault for a local man’s spinal injury, ordering the parties to pay $200,000 in damages, according to a circuit court report. CrossFit will appeal the ruling, a CrossFit spokesman said on the company’s blog.
Jonas Barrish, 36, required emergency spinal surgery in 2012 after attempting to deadlift 350 pounds at Sky’s Limit CrossFit in Kansas City, according to KansasCity.com. Barrish and his attorney filed a $2 million suit, which went to trial Sept. 12 of this year. A week later, the jury returned with a nine-to-three verdict in favor of Barrish for the amount of $400,000. However, it was stipulated that CrossFit Inc. and Sky’s Limit were each only 25 percent at fault for Barrish’s injury, while Barrish was 50 percent responsible. Ultimately, both defendants were ordered to pay $100,000 in damages.
Barrish’s attorney, Rob Sullivan, told KansasCity.com this is the first instance in which CrossFit has ever been assigned fault in a lawsuit. Sullivan accepted the jury’s verdict but argued that Barrish should have only been 10 percent at fault.
On company blog The Russells, CrossFit spokesman Russell Berger said CrossFit would appeal the verdict, calling the judge and jury “unprofessional” and “complacent,” respectively.
“Barrish had deadlifted a new personal record of 300 pounds,” Berger said in a Sept. 25 post. “Once his coach saw this, he instructed Barrish to stop lifting for the day and take the weights off the bar. Ignoring his coach completely, Barrish decided to load the bar to 350 pounds, and subsequently hurt his back attempting the lift.”
Berger added: “CrossFit Inc. is going to appeal the decision and it will continue to vindicate its rights and defend against Barrish’s claims and anyone else who would seek to blame CrossFit, Inc. and our affiliates for their own wrongdoing.”
One of the keys to the verdict was the defendants’ inability to produce an injury waiver contract signed by Barrish, Sullivan said in a press release after the verdict.
Barrish is still recovering from his injury, Sullivan noted in the release.
“After surgical correction to his spine, Mr. Barrish can walk normally and has normal bowel and bladder function,” Sullivan said. “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.”
CrossFit is currently engaged in a series of lawsuits, including two opposing cases with The National Strength and Conditioning Association. The company released a 30-minute video last March called “The Good Fight,” in which Berger defends CrossFit’s recent courtroom battles.
“These battles we're fighting are incredibly important and are really a noble cause,” he said in the video. “There’s this misconception about CrossFit … that we’re a litigious company that’s just out there creating petty squabbles between our competitors and this is all just us being angry because we’ve been criticized and can’t handle that. It’s a lot more than that.”
CrossFit representatives have not yet filed a motion of appeal, according to court databases.