The Arizona Court of Appeals Division One (“Arizona Appellate Court”), in its decision dated December 1, 2020, affirmed a defense verdict for a provider of physical therapy services arising out of the serious brain injury suffered by a patient who evidently fell from a treadmill during physical therapy treatment.
On July 18, 2013, 15-year-old Samuel Ndjedanem Beti (“Beti”) was engaging in physical therapy at Strength Training, Inc. (“STI”) following knee surgery due to a basketball injury. The physical therapy included walking on a treadmill owned and maintained by STI. At some point while on or near the treadmill, Beti fell and hit his head on the floor of the STI facility, suffering brain trauma. STI personnel did not observe the fall.
STI had hired Arizona Therapy Source Sales Service, Inc. (“AZ Therapy”) to perform annual electrical safety inspections of some of its training equipment, including the treadmill used by Beti. These inspections were solely electrical safety inspections intended to prevent electrical-shock or fire hazards; they did not include, or need to include, inspection of mechanical components, such as the deck or belt.
In August 2014, Beti, through his grandmother, filed a complaint against STI and its employees for negligence, premises liability, and medical negligence in Maricopa County Superior Court, which claims were eventually settled.
In September 2017, Beti filed a negligence complaint against AZ Therapy, alleging that in inspecting the treadmill, AZ Therapy negligently failed to identify and repair the treadmill’s worn deck, and as a result, when Beti was using the treadmill, the belt snagged on the deck, causing it to “stutter” and causing Beti to fall off the treadmill.
At the conclusion of the nine-day trial, the jury returned a general defense verdict in favor of AZ Therapy. On appeal, Beti argued, in part, that the superior court erred in allowing AZ Therapy’s experts—Leggett and Dr. Ivarsson—to testify about their post-accident use of the treadmill and Leggett’s observations of others walking on the treadmill without incident because their testimony was not the proper subject of expert testimony.
Arizona Appellate Court Opinion
The Arizona Appellate Court held: “Here, even assuming without deciding that the superior court improperly admitted some portions of testimony from AZ Therapy’s experts, and further assuming none of Beti’s arguments with regard to the expert testimony were waived (as argued by AZ Therapy), Beti cannot demonstrate that his rights were materially affected and prejudice resulted requiring a new trial … Having observed first-hand the witnesses and evidence presented, the superior court was best qualified to determine whether a new trial was warranted … The superior court did not abuse its sound discretion in concluding the jury would have reached the same verdict even without presentation of the challenged evidence, and therefore did not abuse its discretion in upholding the verdict and denying Beti’s motion for a new trial … On this record, Beti’s generalized claim that he was prejudiced is simply unsupported.”
Source Denitang v. Arizona Therapy, No. 1 CA-CV 20-0050.
If you or a loved one suffered serious harm as a result of physical therapy malpractice in Arizona or in another U.S. state, you should promptly find an Arizona medical malpractice attorney, or a medical malpractice attorney in your state, who may investigate your physical therapy injury claim for you and represent you or your loved one in a physical therapy malpractice case, if appropriate.
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