Treadmill Accidents and Investigating Claims of Product Defects

Treadmills continue to be one of the major causes of liability claims in the health club industry today. However, accidents involving treadmills in homes are causing an increasing number of injuries as well. Recently a CED expert was retained to investigate a treadmill accident where the homeowner purchased a commercial treadmill and had it installed by a dealer for the treadmill manufacturer. Two years later, the plaintiff had movers transport the treadmill to a new residence and setup the treadmill in a small confined space.

The plaintiff was exercising when they fainted, fell off the treadmill, was pushed to the rear and pinned against the wall, sustaining major injures as a result. The allegation in the complaint was that the manufacturer designed a defective product because it should have included a safety device other than the string pull or dead man switch that would protect a person who fell while exercising.

The CED engineer on this case first researched the national databases to see if there were any recalls or similar accidents with the particular model of treadmill. This query did not produce any recalls but it did give descriptions of two similar accidents involving this model treadmill. These accidents involved people who had installed the units in small spaces as well, with little or no room behind the treadmill. The engineer had also obtained the installation guide and owner’s manual and determined that both had specific instructions to allow five to ten feet behind the treadmill for clearance in the event of a fall. A site inspection showed that the

treadmill was installed with only 19 inches of clearance. A history of fainting revealed during the plaintiff’s deposition only heightened the importance of the manufacturer’s warnings.

The insight and research of the engineer allowed the treadmill manufacturer to be dismissed from the case. Treadmills, like any other moving piece of equipment can be dangerous if the warning and safety precautions are not followed.