A popular fitness chain is at the centre of a legal battle, with a member launching civil proceedings for an injury allegedly sustained during a personal training session.
Daniel Popp is suing Snap Fitness for negligence after being hospitalised for more than a week following a session with a personal trainer.
The story so far…
Mr Popp checked into an emergency ward when his urine turned “as black as leather” after a session at the gym.
Doctors diagnosed him with rhabdomyolysis – the rapid breakdown of seriously injured muscle tissue, severe enough to threaten his kidney function. Mr Popp’s discharge summary blamed ‘excessive exercise’ for the condition.
Mr Popp is claiming around $200,000 in damages following instructions from a Personal Trainer to ‘push through’, despite voicing complaints of significant pain in the legs and groin, and the fact he had vomited in the toilet.
The Personal Trainer (PT) contends that the exercise programme is safe and suitable to tone up. He denies being informed about any vomiting.
Both Snap Fitness and the personal trainer, James Fallow also deny that Mr Popp’s injuries were a result of the personal training session. Snap Fitness has also argued that it is not responsible for the actions of a personal trainer. The company says that despite the fact the PT signed Mr Popp up at the gym, worked exclusively for Snap Fitness and wore a company uniform, he was not an ‘employee’ or ‘agent’ at the time. It claims the company is therefore not liable for any injury sustained by Mr Popp.
The gym chain also denies it has a duty of care to ensure training sessions are provided with both ‘due care and skill’.
Liability of principals and agents
The case also raises questions about the nature of the legal relationship between PTs and gyms, and the legal obligations which arise.
It is not unusual for PTs to be on contracts which stipulate they are not employees, and the gym is not responsible for liability which may arise through their actions.
But the latter is not necessarily true – it is well established that a principal (in this case, Snap Fitness) may be responsible for the actions of its agents (PTs) despite the fact the latter are not considered as employees.
Peak industry body Fitness Australia says the fitness sector is heavily regulated, and businesses and contractors are encouraged to comply with the organisation’s code of ethics.
It points out that gyms are responsible to check a trainer’s qualifications, his or her membership of the industry body and insurance details.
It says that although a ruling against Snap Fitness could lead to stricter checks and better training of PTs, it might also cause gyms to cut PT numbers or even do away with them altogether.