Harry Senator Reid’s Products Liability Suit Fails

Benson & Bingham

Earlier this month a Las Vegas jury heard testimony in a civil lawsuit filed by former Nevada U.S. Senator Harry Reid against the makers of Thera-Band, a popular exercise band. Senator Reid alleged that one of these exercise bands failed during use, causing a severe injury that left him blind in one eye. Senator Reid sued the company for an undisclosed amount. [1] His lawsuit originally proceeded on both a product liability theory – arguing that either that his exercise band was affected by a manufacturing anomaly or that the product was designed in a way that made it defective even if manufactured properly – as well as a negligence claim. Once trial got underway, Senator Reid dropped the negligence aspect of his claim. [2]

Senator Reid was 75 years old at the time of his injury on January 1, 2015. He was using Thera-Bands to exercise in his Las Vegas home when, he alleged, one of the bands snapped, hitting him in the face and causing him to fall. He hit the floor and broke several bones in his face and rib cage. Senator Reid was released from the hospital the following day. Conspiracy theories soon surfaced, contemplating whether Senator Reid’s injury was due to an accident as he claimed, or whether the septuagenarian had engaged in a good old-fashioned brawl. (Before his foray into public service, Senator Reid was a boxer.) Senator Reid returned to work after the injury, using various methods to cover up his injury, including a bandage, sunglasses, and eye glasses with one opaque lens, but he did not seek reelection the following fall. [3]

Testimony was contentious between Senator Reid and the opposing counsel. Some controversy surrounded whether or not Senator Reid’s eye injury was the reason he subsequently chose not to run for reelection. During the proceedings, Senator Reid claimed that he decided not to seek reelection because of his injury. However, video footage from 2015 was shown to the jury showing Senator Reid saying, “The decision I have made has absolutely nothing to do with my injury.” While these statements appeared contradictory, Senator Reid offered a plausible explanation: “My being able to run again was not going to be possible, and I wanted the people of the State of Nevada to know I wasn’t incapacitated.” [4]

There was also some discrepancy as to the method of failure for the exercise band. The attorneys for Thera-Band alleged that Senator Reid had previously claimed that the band had broken during use. Senator Reid did not make this claim during the court proceedings. He simply stated that the band had injured him during use, not that it had broken or snapped. [5] Crucially, Senator Reid was unable to produce the item that allegedly injured him because his adult son disposed of it. The jury stopped Senator Reid’s lawsuit in its tracks when it concluded that he had failed to prove that he ever possessed a Thera-Band product. [6]

Using resistance bands is a great, low-cost way to supplement an at-home workout routine, but these items can be dangerous. Bands have been known to occasionally break or snap out of a user’s control, flying back and hitting them in the face or body. In order to avoid injury while using an exercise band, you should check the band thoroughly before use for weak spots or tears. Begin your workout slowly to further ensure that the band is strong and sound. Never leave the band in the sun, as this can break down the material and eventually weaken the band. Avoid jerking the band quickly – always move in slow, steady motions. (This tends to provide a better workout, anyway.) Don’t over-stretch the band, as this can increase the likelihood of the band breaking. Do not release the band while it is under pressure. Instead, slowly release pressure until the band is slack. Never leave the bands in reach of children, and do not treat these exercise tools as toys. [7]

While resistance bands can cause dramatic injury when they fail or snap, there are many more likely potential injuries in any gym environment. According to a 2015 study looking at data from emergency rooms between July 1999 and June 2013, most gym injuries are caused by overexertion. Overexertion was the main cause of both free-weight and group exercise injuries. Crush injuries were also common, especially during free-weight activities, as were falls and awkward landings. Trip-and-fall injuries were seen throughout the facilities. [8]

If you are injured while exercising, quickly assess the severity of the injury. Seek immediate medical attention if necessary. End your workout immediately and stabilize any minor injuries. Apply bandages and ice as necessary. Once you have tended to your immediate needs, you may be wondering if you can seek damages as a result of your injury. Depending on the circumstances surrounding your injury, you may have a personal injury case. If you caused your own injury by using equipment incorrectly or by failing to pay attention to your surroundings, your recovery may be limited, even if the workout took place at a gym. However, if the gym management failed to maintain a reasonably safe workout environment, they may bear some responsibility for your injury. If another individual caused your injury at the gym, either intentionally or accidentally, he or she may be held liable. Also, if the injury was caused by a failure of a piece of equipment, you may choose to seek damages against that company rather than the gym you belong to. It is common for gyms to include liability waivers in their new-member paperwork, and on their face these waivers can seem like a death knell for any liability lawsuit; the reality is often more complicated. Contact an experienced product liability attorney for a consultation about the viability of your claim.

[1] https://news3lv.com/news/local/harry-Senator Reid-concludes-testimony-in-civil-suit

[2] https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/las-vegas-jury-rejects-harry-Senator Reid-lawsuit-against-fitness-band-n991636

[3] https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2015/10/10/the-long-strange-saga-of-harry-Senator Reid-and-the-exercise-band

[4] https://news3lv.com/news/local/harry-Senator Reid-concludes-testimony-in-civil-suit

[5] https://news3lv.com/news/local/harry-Senator Reid-concludes-testimony-in-civil-suit

[6] https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/las-vegas-jury-rejects-harry-Senator Reid-lawsuit-against-fitness-band-n991636

[7] https://stroops.com/avoiding-resistance-band-injuries

[8] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5005555

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