Treadmills are a great, convenient way to exercise. You can use them anytime, at home, in the gym, and exercise at your own pace. But treadmills can be dangerous. Thousands of people suffer treadmill injuries every year, including children. And recently, Peloton’s treadmills have been the subject of numerous, national stories questioning their safety. As a treadmill injury lawyer, I will discuss the common issues concerning treadmill injury lawsuits.

  1. Are treadmills dangerous?
  2. Are treadmill injuries common?
  3. Who gets sued in treadmill injury lawsuits?
  4. What clearance does there need to be behind treadmills?
  5. Can gyms be sued for treadmill injuries?
  6. What if I signed a release at my gym?
  7. Can children sue for treadmill injuries?
  8. Are the dangers of treadmills open and obvious to children?
  9. What kind of injuries can you get from a treadmill accident?
  10. What is happening with the Peloton treadmill I keep hearing about?

Are treadmills dangerous?

Yes, treadmills can be dangerous.

In 2019, there were approximately 22,500 treadmill injuries in the United States. And in 2014, there were approximately 24,400 treadmill injuries treated in emergency rooms. In fact, more injuries are caused by treadmills than any other type of gym equipment.

Does this mean people should stop using treadmills? No. Treadmills can be used safely and are, of course, a popular piece of gym equipment.

But following all safety instructions and knowing how to use treadmills is critical. For example, you never want to lose your balance on a treadmill. Make sure there are no distractions – like your cell phone – that might cause you to lose your balance.

Further, you must make sure the treadmill is set up according to the treadmill manual. If it is not, you greatly increase the risk of injury. As a treadmill injury lawyer, I know the issues involved in treadmill accidents, and what facts show who may be responsible for your treadmill injuries.

Are treadmill injuries common?

Yes, treadmill injuries are fairly common. As noted above, more people injure themselves on treadmills than any other type of gym equipment.

This does not come as a surprise, given that a treadmill’s moving belt is quite powerful and can easily throw off its user or suck things underneath the belt.

Who gets sued in treadmill injury lawsuits?

Treadmill injury lawsuits generally fall into two categories. The first: treadmill injury lawsuits against treadmill manufacturers. The second: treadmill injury lawsuits against gym/property owners.

The first category of treadmill injury lawsuits is against the treadmill manufacturer. As an example, treadmill injuries may occur when a treadmill suddenly changes speeds for no apparent reason, causing the user to fall off the treadmill.

The second category of treadmill injury lawsuits is against gym/property owners. Let’s look at some case examples.

In Jimenez v. 24 Hour Fitness USA, Inc., 237 Cal. App. 4th 546 (Cal. 3d App. Dist. 2015), the plaintiff was using a treadmill at her gym, 24 Hour Fitness. Unfortunately, she fell backwards off of the treadmill and hit her head on an exposed steel foot of a leg exercise machine approximately 3 feet 10 inches behind the treadmill. The plaintiff and her husband filed suit against 24 Hour Fitness and argued that 24 Hour Fitness was liable because it violated the treadmill manufacturer’s manual. Specifically, the plaintiffs argued that the treadmill manufacturer’s manual and safety guide stated that there should be six-foot clearance behind the treadmill for the user’s safety. Additionally, the plaintiffs’ expert stated that the because people often fall off treadmills, it is important to have sufficient clearance behind the treadmill. Because the leg machine was 3 feet 10 inches behind the treadmill, the plaintiffs argued 24 Hour Fitness violated the standards. Despite this evidence, the trial court ruled in 24 Hour Fitness’ favor. On appeal, however, the appellate court reversed the trial court. The appellate court noted that a jury could find that 24 Hour Fitness’ failure to provide the 6-foot safety zone was an extreme departure from the ordinary standard of conduct.

What can we take away from Jimenez? First, it is critically important to follow the manufacturer’s guidelines. The manufacturer’s guidelines make clear that there needs to be sufficient clearance behind the treadmills. Second, it is important to remember that treadmills users are vulnerable to falling off treadmills.

What are some other ways people can be injured by treadmills?

In Roer v. 150 W. End Ave. Owners Corp., 924 N.Y.S. 2d 312 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. 2010), the plaintiff was using a treadmill in the basement gym of his apartment building. While using the treadmill, another building resident walked by and greeted the plaintiff. The resident also gently rolled a loose exercise ball out of her way. Unfortunately, the loose exercise ball rolled back to the plaintiff’s treadmill where it was touching the treadmill’s conveyor belt. Then, the exercise ball got sucked under by the treadmill, lifting the treadmill in the air. The plaintiff fell off the treadmill. The plaintiff filed suit against the owner of the building, the building’s manager, and the resident. The plaintiff claimed, among other things, that the building owner and building manager failed to take reasonable measures to ensure the exercise ball would be secured when not in use. The defendants filed motions for summary judgment, but the trial court denied the motions and noted that there were issues of fact requiring a trial. The trial court noted:

Here, the Court finds that the issue of whether the occurrence which caused Plaintiff’s injuries was “naturally associated with” the defendants’ breach of their alleged duty (i.e., to secure the exercise ball in order to prevent it from moving freely about the gym and becoming a hazard) presents an issue of fact and thus cannot be resolved by the Court on a motion for summary judgment. A rational factfinder could determine that it was foreseeable that placing an exercise ball in proximity to a moving treadmill, where it could come into contact with the belt and disturb the treadmill’s functionality, posed a danger to the person using it. Similarly, a factfinder could rationally conclude that the Co-op’s failure to provide storage racks or other means to prevent the free movement of the balls throughout the gym was a proximate cause of Plaintiff’s injuries.

What can we take away from Roer? Gyms need to be careful not to place loose objects – including exercise balls – near treadmills as they can come into contact with treadmills and seriously harm the users. Further, loose objects – again like exercise balls – should be secured and kept far away from treadmills. If a gym is small, such as a hotel gym, and there are treadmills, the safe and smart thing to do is not have loose exercise equipment, like exercise balls, in the gym.

Let’s look at this photograph to demonstrate:

Treadmill in Gym with Loose Ball and Equipment(1)

As you can see, there is a loose exercise ball close to the treadmill. There are two problems here. First, the loose ball should not be anywhere near the treadmill. As seen in the Roer case, loose exercise balls can roll around and come into contact with treadmills. Second, exercise balls – or any other loose equipment – should not be in the same room as treadmills. Gyms with thoughtful, safe layouts will not mix the two together. Loose exercise equipment will be nowhere near the treadmills.

In a treadmill accident, a treadmill injury lawyer will be able to identify these and other issues which may show the gym (or property owner) was negligent.

What clearance does there need to be behind treadmills?

As noted in the Jimenez case, the manufacturer noted there must be six feet clearance behind the treadmill. Additionally, in my research and experience as a treadmill injury lawyer, treadmill manufacturers recommend that there be a minimum of 6 feet of clearance behind the treadmill. Are there other standards or rules concerning the clearance behind treadmills? Yes.

The American Society for Testing and Materials (“ASTM”) is an organization that provides standards for various products, materials, and systems. Courts look to ASTM standards as an authoritative source.  ASTM has a standard for the clearance behind treadmills. According to the ASTM standard F2115-9, the recommended clearance behind treadmills is 78.7 inches, or just over 6 feet.

Let’s look at this photograph to illustrate the importance of clearance behind treadmills:

Modern gym interior with equipment, treadmills for fitness cardio training

As you can see, the clearance behind the treadmill is less than 6 feet. If a treadmill user fell off, he or she would likely hit his or her head on the treadmill behind him or her. Given the treadmill is made of metal, the injuries could be quite serious. This is a dangerous hazard.

Can gyms be sued for treadmill injuries?

Yes, gyms can be sued for treadmill injuries.

As discussed in the cases above, gyms can be sued for treadmill injuries if, among other things, the gyms did not follow applicable safety standards concerning the treadmill.

What if I signed a release at my gym?

If you signed a release with your gym, you may not be able to bring a claim. I must caution, though, that each claim and waiver is unique, and so the answer to this question depends on the facts and circumstances of your specific claim. Let’s look at an example.

In Savoia v. Fitness Int’l, LLC, 286 So. 3d 310 (Fla. 4th DCA 2019), the trial court dismissed the plaintiff’s slip and fall claim against his gym on the grounds that he signed the gym’s waiver, which was on a computer tablet. On appeal, however, the appellate court reversed the trial court. In particular, the appellate court noted that there were issues of fact surrounding the plaintiff’s execution of the waiver, including whether the presentation of the release on a computer tablet prevented him from reading the release.

As you can see in this example, the question of whether a party released his or her claims against a gym must be taken on a case-by-case basis. An experienced treadmill injury lawyer will be able to review your release and see whether it bars your potential treadmill injury claim.

Can children sue for treadmill injuries?

Depending on the facts and circumstances of the accident, a child, through his or her parents or guardian, may sue for treadmill injuries. Let’s look at an example.

In Ramos v. Camden Property Trust, Hillsborough County Florida Case No. 12-CA-014894, the plaintiff, a ten-year-old child, was playing in an adults-only gym in his family’s apartment complex. The child reached for a ball under a treadmill when his hand was pulled into the machine. Tragically, the child sustained multiple fractures on his right arm as well as a degloving injury. The child pled an attractive nuisance theory, and the evidence reflected that the defendant knew children played in the gym. Ultimately, the jury returned a $2,600,000 verdict.

In Ramos, the theory of liability was the attractive nuisance doctrine. Importantly, not every child injury case involving treadmills will involve the attractive nuisance doctrine. This is evident from the Qureshi case, which will discussed in the next section.

Of course, if a child is injured by a treadmill, you can reasonably expect the parents will be blamed – in whole or part – for the accident. More specifically, the defendant(s) may argue the parents were themselves negligent for their child’s injuries because they were not supervising and monitoring their child. Generally, though, under Florida law a parent’s failure to supervise is not an absolute defense, but a question of fact for the jury.

In addition to handling and addressing this defense, a treadmill injury lawyer will anticipate other common defenses in treadmill injury cases.

Are the dangers of treadmills open and obvious to children?

Generally, the dangers of treadmills may not be open and obvious to children. Courts across the country have discussed this issue.

In Qureshi v. Ahmed, 394 Ill. App. 3d 883 (Ill. App. Ct. 2009), a young, ten-year-old girl injured her hand on a treadmill at her friend’s house. Her injuries were serious; she suffered a degloving injury requiring surgery and skin grafts. The injured girl’s parents filed a lawsuit against her friend’s parents arguing, among other things, that the parents failed to secure the treadmill from the use of curious children. The trial court granted summary for the defendants, finding that the friend’s parents had no duty to warn of the treadmill’s dangers. On appeal, however, the appellate court reversed the trial court. The appellate court noted that it could not conclude the treadmill’s dangerous were open and obvious, such that the friend’s parents did not have to warn about the treadmill. Further, the appellate court noted that because potential dangers from treadmills could vary from case to case and there was a dispute about the obviousness of the dangers of treadmills, the trial court should not have granted summary judgment to the friend’s parents.

What kind of injuries can you get from a treadmill accident?

Frequently seen injuries in connection with treadmill accidents include:

  • Burns
  • Degloving injuries
  • Broken bones
  • Neck injuries
  • Traumatic brain injuries
  • Bruising
  • Abrasions
  • Traumatic brain injuries
  • Hand injuries
  • Lacerations

What is happening with the Peloton treadmill I keep reading about?

Recently, the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (“CPSC”) released a shocking video on its YouTube channel regarding the Peloton treadmill.

What happened in the video? We will look back at the controversy surrounding Peloton’s treadmills.

In March 2021, Peloton tragically announced that a child died as a result of a Peloton treadmill. This was the second injury to a child, following a February 2021 incident in which a child suffered a brain injury.

On April 17, 2021 the CPSC issued a warning to the users of the Peloton Tread+ following reports of many children and pets being caught underneath the treadmill.

The CPSC noted that there were 39 treadmill injury incidents. Further, the CPSC warned, among other things, to (1) not use the treadmill if children are home; (2) use the treadmill in a locked room; (3) keep exercise and other objects away from the treadmill; (4) when not using the treadmill, keep it unplugged and store the safety key.

Initially, Peloton was not pleased with the CPSC’s warning. In fact, its CEO issued a harsh response calling the CSPC’s warning “inaccurate and harsh.” However, Peloton backtracked and voluntarily agreed to recall its Tread+ and Tread treadmills. Roughly 125,000 treadmills apply to the recall.

Well, why does the CPSC believe the Peloton treadmill is dangerous? It was reported that the CPSC was concerned with the Peloton treadmill’s height off of the ground, or the distance between the bottom of the conveyor belt and the floor. Additionally, the CPSC was examining the Peloton treadmill’s conveyor belt, which is made up of slats. Most treadmills do not have slats, but have flat, continuous conveyor belts.

Recently, a class action lawsuit was filed against Peloton in connection with its treadmills. The lawsuit is in its initial stages; we will monitor it closely.

Barthelette Law, Your Treadmill Injury Lawyer

As a treadmill injury lawyer, I proudly represent adults and children injured in treadmill accidents.

Of course, if you have a question that is not found in this list, do not hesitate to call (561) 246-4137 or email us today.