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Snap Fitness claim it is not responsible for PT’s actions in negligence lawsuit
Leading 24/7 gym group Snap Fitness has claimed it is not responsible for the actions of one of its personal trainers in a negligence lawsuit filed after a client ended up in hospital for more than a week following a training session.
As reported by the Brisbane Times, Daniel Popp was checked into an emergency ward when his urine turned "as black as leather" following his first personal training session at Snap Fitness in the inland central Queensland town of Emerald in August 2014.
With both Snap and the personal trainer contesting the lawsuit, the gym franchise has contested that it wasn't responsible for the personal trainer's actions in its response reportedly arguing that the trainer, James William Fallow, was not an employee of the gym.
Doctors diagnosed rhabdomyolysis – the rapid breakdown of seriously injured muscle tissue severe enough to threaten the kidneys.
It can be found in car crash victims, illicit drug takers and marathon runners but doctors blamed "excessive exercise", according to Popp's discharge summary from the Emerald Hospital.
In a lawsuit filed against Snap Fitness Emerald and Fallow, earlier this year, the 30-year-old blamed the exercise regime he was put through, calling for about $200,000 in damages.
He alleged the trainer told him to push through despite complaining of "significant" pain in his legs and groin, feeling faint, struggling to stand and vomiting in the toilet several times.
In his defence, Fallow said his program was safe and suitable for Popp's desire to "tone up", denying that the gym member made any of his concerns about vomiting or pain known.
Both Fallow and Snap denied negligence, with Snap also denying the man suffered injuries as a result of the session.
The Brisbane Times report advises that despite Fallow signing Popp up to the gym, where he worked exclusively and wore a uniform, Snap denied he was an employee.
The company argued it did not owe the mines worker a duty of care to ensure personal training services at the gym were "provided with due care and skill".
Fallow argued he was in fact employed by the gym and that both parties owed a duty of care to the father-of-five.
The personal trainer-as-contractor arrangement is common throughout the fitness industry, with trainers have arrangements with gyms to ‘rent’ space or to use their facilities in return for part of their earnings.
However, risk management expert Dr Betul Sekendiz of Central Queensland University sees that such arrangements present human resources and safety problems.
Dr Sekendiz told the Brisbane Times that gyms could still be found vicariously liable for contractors, commenting “a big proportion of the fitness professionals are working as part time, which means they are self-employed and this is how they are working as personal trainers.
"Managers tend to believe that this is a much cheaper and also safer option for themselves.
"They think they have less responsibility for the acts of the personal trainer."
Shine Lawyers Mackay Branch manager Craig Oliver, responsible for Popp's case, said the argument threatened to set a dangerous precedent.
Oliver stated “when you take a look at a national company that is inviting or incentivising people to come into their gyms to improve their health, I think of all companies they need to ensure that systems are in place to make sure that health isn't put at risk, irrespective of who they may bring in as trainers.”
Queensland Law Society President Christine Smyth said the line between employee and contractor could be tricky and had the potential to cause problems in the fitness industry, adding "it's a broader problem per se because there's a deconstruction of the traditional workforce.
"So once upon a time you used to have a business that employed people but the cost of employing people is quite significant."
Click here to read the original article in The Brisbane Times.
Image: Snap Fitness Emerald. Courtesy of Google Maps.
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