Big 5 Sues Guthy-Renker Fitness in Personal Injury Case

Big 5 Corp., a sporting goods retailer in California, sued Guthy-Renker Fitness Sept. 17 in a cross-complaint arising from a personal injury lawsuit against both companies.

Both companies were sued June 10 in Orange County Superior Court by a woman and her 11-year-old daughter who claimed they suffered injuries and emotional distress caused by a Perfect Buns & Thighs exercise device.

The device, originally marketed in an infomercial, was manufactured by Guthy-Renker Fitness and purchased at a Big 5 sporting goods store in California. Guthy-Renker Fitness is the exercise product division of Guthy-Renker Corp., an infomercial marketer in Palm Desert, CA, that claims annual sales of more than $300 million.

The personal injury suit claims the exercise device was defective and that Guthy-Renker and Big 5 failed to adequately warn Rowell about its potential dangers. According to the lawsuit, Deborah Rowell, a resident of San Clemente, CA, was injured Aug. 14 while exercising on the machine in her home while her daughter Alexandra sat on a nearby bed.

As Rowell dismounted from the machine, its swinging arm lashed back and struck her in the face, causing “bleeding, bruising and permanent scarring.” The arm of the device was “loaded with a rubber-band type weight, that provided over 50 pounds of resistance,” according to the suit. She required emergency medical treatment and may need future plastic surgery to correct permanent disfigurement, said James D. Daily, an attorney with Reinecke & Daily, Irvine, CA, who represents the Rowells.

“Due to this negligence, [Deborah Rowell's] right eye droops more than the left eye, as a direct result of the trauma it experienced,” according to the suit.

James D. Daily, an attorney with Reinecke & Daily, Irvine, CA, who represents the Rowells, said he expected an evaluation conference in court some time in November to determine whether the case would proceed to a trial or to an arbitration hearing.

Big 5's cross-complaint against Guthy-Renker includes causes of action for indemnity, declaratory relief and breach of contract.

Daily said Guthy-Renker filed its own suit against Big 5 for declaratory relief and indemnity in the case. An attorney for Big 5 declined to comment on the case. Guthy-Renker did not return an interview request at press time.

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