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Health Club Found Not Liable For Infectious Disease Claim (NY)

January 27, 2023

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Generally, a property owner in New York has a duty to maintain the property in a reasonably safe condition. To hold a defendant liable for a breach of this duty, a plaintiff must establish as part of his or her case that the defective condition existed and was a proximate cause of the alleged injury. A defendant may have a plaintiff’s claims dismissed on summary judgment by demonstrating that there was no dangerous or defective condition that could have caused plaintiff’s injury. Many of the cases addressing these issues involving tripping or falling hazards. Where a plaintiff allegedly contracts an infectious disease from visiting a premises, can the property owner be liable for such a condition?

In<em> <a href="https://www.wcmlaw.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/01/Pecora-v.-Fitness-Intl.-LLC.pdf">Pecora v. Fitness Intl., LLC</a></em>, the Appellate Division, Second Department addressed this issue in a case where a health club member filed a personal injury action after developing an infection on his stomach which required hospital treatment. Plaintiff continued to use the health club’s sauna and subsequently developed a bacterial infection, MRSA. He alleged that the use of the defendants’ sauna caused the infection, and that the health club was liable for this condition.

The Second Department affirmed the lower court’s award of summary judgment to defendants, finding that the plaintiff would not be able to prove, without speculating, that the MRSA infection came from the facility. The defendants’ evidence had shown that MRSA can be transmitted through common everyday interactions, the facility underwent regular cleaning, and no prior complaints about anyone else contracting MRSA or any other infection at the facility were made. In light of the possibility that the infection could have been caused by other means, the Court found that plaintiff failed to establish that the defendants caused or created a dangerous condition.

The <em>Pecora</em> case did not specifically hold that an infectious disease can be considered a dangerous condition but applied traditional premises liability and causation principles to find that the infection plaintiff claimed he developed was not a dangerous condition caused or created by the property owners. The case underscores the importance of causation proofs on this issue.

Thank you to Gabriella Scarmato for her contribution to this post. Should you have any questions, please contact <a href="agibbs@wcmlaw.com">Andrew Gibbs</a>.

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