LA Fitness, San Ramon, California, and an LA Fitness club manager have denied negligence-based allegations made by a former member who was injured using an LA Fitness sauna in Georgia.
The member, Charmaine Johnson, had all 10 of her toes and portions of her feet amputated as a result of injuries sustained after passing out in the sauna in February. She filed a five-count civil suit in the State Court of Fulton County in July seeking a jury trial, compensation for pain and suffering, compensation for "hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical expenses," punitive damages and litigation costs. The case is currently in the discovery phase.
LA Fitness and the manager, Christopher McDaniel, filed separate answers in response to the complaint, claiming Johnson waived all claims and liability as a result of her use of the club. LA Fitness and McDaniel requested the court find judgment in their favor and against Johnson, court costs and other relief the court deems appropriate. (Read the court documents at the bottom of this page.)
Johnson's complaint alleges negligence, premises liability, gross negligence, negligent design and maintenance, and willful and wanton misconduct.
Johnson claims LA Fitness owed her a duty of care as a patron of the club and has a duty to protect patrons from unreasonable risks. LA Fitness breached that duty in "many respects," which included leaving Johnson inside the sauna and permitting her to be "cooked alive," according to the complaint.
LA Fitness admits it had a duty to keep the premises reasonably safe and to warn of hidden dangers not observable to invitees who were "exercising ordinary care for their own safety," according to the answer. LA Fitness denies it breached any duty owed to Johnson.
Johnson lost consciousness for two hours in the sauna after a February 17 workout at the Stone Mountain LA Fitness club. No LA Fitness employee stopped to monitor the sauna or members inside while she was unconscious, according to the complaint.
Johnson was rushed to a hospital where she received emergency treatment for burns and hypothermia as a result of the exposure, according the complaint. Johnson was transferred to a burn unit at a different hospital six days later where the surgery was performed. She remained in the hospital for over a month.
Under the negligence count, Johnson alleges LA Fitness allowed the sauna to become too hot, failed to implement and carry out a safety inspection on the sauna, failed to properly vent the sauna and failed to indicate sauna settings in understandable terms. It was McDaniel's duty as manager to ensure those policies were enforced, according to the complaint.
Under the premises liability count, Johnson alleges LA Fitness failed to monitor dangerous conditions at the club, knew of the dangers associated with its saunas, and failed to implement or carry out a regular walk through of the premises to discover dangers or assist potentially injured patrons. McDaniel failed to carry out or enforce inspections, according to the complaint.
Under the gross negligence count, Johnson alleges LA Fitness did not install vents required by the manufacturer and did not post warnings of extreme dangers associated with sauna use. The sauna doors were regulated by a mechanical device that automatically closes the doors, contrary to the manufacturer's requirements, according to the complaint.
LA Fitness negligently designed and negligently maintained the sauna room by placing the exposed heater unit directly adjacent to the sauna benches, Johnson alleges. Automatic and manual "kill switches" were not installed in the sauna, according to the complaint.
"It's not about Ms. Johnson trying to get rich," Johnson's attorney, Jesse Kent, told FOX5 Atlanta. "It's not about her now thinking that she's won the lottery. These losses are real. She'll never recover from them. This will always affect her. It will affect her as long as she's here on Earth."
Below is Charmaine Johnson's complaint and the answers from LA Fitness and McDaniel filed in the State Court of Fulton County.