Cybex Reaches $19.5m Settlement in Product Liability Case

By: Tom Stebbins, Executive Director

Last week, premium exercise equipment manufacturer Cybex International agreed to pay $19.5m to a Cheektowaga woman, who was injured by a piece of Cybex equipment when she improperly used a leg machine to stretch her shoulder in October 2004. The settlement was reduced from the $66m originally awarded in the case, considered by many to be a record in Western New York personal injury cases.  The settlement is also down from the $44m awarded by the appellate division in November 2011.  But even the $44m was expected by many analysts to bankrupt Cybex, which had $4m in liability insurance.

While the reduced settlement may allow Cybex to continue to operate and let its workers keep their jobs, the fact remains that it took the very real prospect of bankrupting another American manufacturer to bring the settlement down.  And the cost of this lawsuit extends far beyond Cybex.   Looking at this lawsuit, American manufacturers will likely see the need to add more insurance, adding to the cost of their products and increasing the price to consumers.

Similarly, innovation will be stifled as manufacturers consider liability before quality.  Even though the plaintiff in this case did not use the equipment for its intended purpose, the court ruled that the manufacturer was liable for the injury since using the equipment for stretching was “foreseeable.”  Of course, now manufacturers must consider every foreseeable misuse as they design products, rather than focus on improving the experience of the intended use.

When the initial ruling came down, Cybex Chairman and CEO said the case was an example of “the tort system run amok.”  We couldn’t agree more.  And while this accident was tragic, if we continue to bring American companies to near bankruptcy with litigation, do not be surprised if there are not many American companies left.


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4 comments

  1. Pingback: Great moments in foreseeable misuse

  2. Something is wrong with your reporting. The Appellate Division reduced the award to $12,000,000 ["We therefore modify the judgment accordingly, and we grant a new trial on damages for past and future pain and suffering only unless plaintiff, within 20 days of service of a copy of the order of this Court with notice of entry, stipulates to reduce the award of damages for past pain and suffering to $3 million and for future pain and suffering to $9 million, in which event the judgment is modified accordingly."]

    — By VMS on February 20, 2012
    • VMS, Thank you for your comment. We got the $19.5m settlement figure from Market Watch (http://bit.ly/ynpPSW) and net of insurance. Perhaps your figure does not include medical payments?

      — By Phoebe Stonbely on February 21, 2012
  3. Even though the settlement was reduced, that is still a fairly large amount that should definitely cover the woman’s medical costs.

    — By Joe Carson on October 8, 2013

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