The appellant, an experienced gym user, was training at a gym run by the respondent. He was using a leg press which he had loaded with 240 kilograms of weights.
When exiting the machine, the footplate descended and collided with the crown of his head, which allegedly resulted in multiple injuries, including conversion disorder.
The appellant argued that the respondent breached the duty of care owed to him as a lawful occupant of the gym by failing to maintain (or install safety features on) the leg press, failing to provide instructions, and failing to warn the claimant.
The primary judge was not persuaded that the incident was caused by anything other than the inattentive operation of the leg press by the appellant combined with him taking hold of the footplate to lift himself from the chair.
Further, the primary judge was not satisfied that the appellant would have followed instruction as to the proper use of the leg press even if provided. There was found to be no duty to warn or instruct as the appellant was aware that the weight bar may have been unstable if the supports were not properly brought back into the locked position. As a result, the appellant’s claim was dismissed.
On appeal, the appellant argued that:
- The primary judge erred by failing to draw proper inferences of fact as to the existence, function and maladjustment of a spring on the leg press;
- The primary judge failed to decide a material issue of whether the respondent breached its duty to warn; and
- The primary judge erred by concluding he was not satisfied that the appellant suffered from a conversion disorder caused by the incident.
The defendant contended that the risk of harm was obvious, relieving the respondent of any duty to instruct or warn. Further, it was argued that the materialisation of the risk was the materialisation of an obvious risk of a dangerous recreational activity. The defendant also contended that, in the event that the appellant established that the primary judge failed to decide a material issue, it would have not changed the outcome.
- The appeal was dismissed.
- The appellant was ordered pay the respondent’s costs of the appeal.
- Mitchelmore JA, Stern JA and Simpson AJA, decision delivered 3 October 2023.
As to the first ground of appeal, it was found that there was no proper evidentiary foundation that the leg press had, or ought to have had, a spring. As such, this ground was rejected.
As to the second ground, it was found that a warning would not have prevented the incident from occurring as the appellant was fully aware of the steps he had to take to ensure the weight bar was properly supported. Further, there was no evidence to support a finding the appellant would have acted any differently had he been warned. It was found the appellant must have not checked that the weight bar was properly resting on the top pads before attempting to get off the leg press. If he had done so, the incident could not have occurred.
Lastly, it was held the primary judge did not err in finding, on the basis of inconsistencies and absence of corroboration, that an inference of conversion disorder was not more likely than the interference that the appellant was feigning his disability. The evidence relied on did not support a finding that any conversion order was caused by the incident.
Emmi Airaksinen is a lawyer at Travis Schultz & Partners, Mooloolaba.