Health-club chain LA Fitness must pay $619,650 to the family of a Fort Lauderdale man who died of sudden cardiac arrest while working out at an Oakland Park gym, a Broward Circuit Court jury ordered Wednesday.
The jury needed only two hours of deliberations to find that LA Fitness’ negligence contributed to Alessio Tringali’s death. No one attempted to perform CPR on the dying 49-year-old man and the club didn’t have an automated external defibrillator that could have saved his life, argued Russell Adler, the attorney for Tringali’s family.
The case is believed to be one of the first in the country where a health club has been held liable for failing to have a defibrillator on site, Adler said.
“It is a symbolic verdict and a therapeutic verdict because it sends a loud message to the health club industry that they need to do a better job to protect their members when they have a medical emergency,” Adler said.
Adler had asked jurors to award $10 million to the Tringali family.
LA Fitness officials could not be reached for for comment on Wednesday. Gene Kissane, an attorney for LA Fitness, declined to discuss the verdict.
In closing arguments, Kissane told jurors that Tringali’s death on April 3, 2003, was inevitable, comparing his heart to a time bomb. The chance of surviving a sudden cardiac attack outside a hospital is 5 percent, he said.
In addition, it wasn’t common practice at health clubs at that time to have defibrillators, he said.
Adler said LA Fitness facilities now have defibrillators.
By Jon Burstein
(South Florida Sun-Sentinel, March 30, 2006)