Sydney mum receives $550k after injuring back picking up weights

A Sydney mother who injured her back putting away a 25kg weight at a gym in the city’s west has been awarded more than $550,000 in injury compensation.

The NSW District Court ruled Jacqueline Powell was forced to tidy equipment in February 2016 that was left scattered on the floor at the New Dimensions Health and Fitness Centre where she was a member.

Judge Leonard Levy SC awarded $551,000 to the mother who was 42 at the time the injury occurred, saying the gym was negligent for not clearing the exercise area after other users had left equipment in a “hazardous mess and untidiness”.

“On her arrival at the weights area of the premises she found that she was confronted with a large quantity of gym equipment that had been left strewn untidily on the floor by previous patrons,” he said in the judgement handed down on Thursday.

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“Those circumstances were in plain contravention of the terms of membership of the gymnasium which required that it was the responsibility of users of equipment to put the equipment away after use.

“Had reasonable care been taken by the defendant, she would not have been injured.”

Maurice Blackburn principal Dimi Ioannou told The Daily Telegraph the case has put gyms “on notice” and should serve as a warning to other businesses to take care of the shared exercise spaces.

“Gym owners and operators have a responsibility to make sure they keep the place safe for their members, and a safe environment at all times,” she said.

Since the injury, which caused immediate “immense and intense pain”, Ms Powell has undergone four surgeries on the disk protrusion but still struggles to get through a regular day.

The gym claimed the mother-of-three should accept half the blame and share the costs associated with the injury but this was rejected by Judge Levy.

The New Dimensions Health and Fitness Centre also submitted video of Ms Powell collected by a private investigator showing the woman doing daily tasks such as carrying grocery bags.

But this was also rejected by the judge.

“Viewed in the context of the plaintiff’s oral evidence, the occasional movements of the plaintiff, as seen in that footage, as seized upon by the defendant, were, in my view, of benign significance,” Judge Levy said.

The total figure of $551,097.62 was reached to compensate the woman for out-of-pocket expenses, future treatment, wage compensation and assistance around her home.

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