A California jury recently rejected a claim by a health club patron who suffered severe burns after losing consciousness in the sauna.

Plaintiff Henri Wassilian, a 65-year-old man, used the dry sauna at L.A. Fitness in the San Fernando Valley.  Another patron apparently threw buckets of water on the sauna coils, causing increased steam and heat.  Wassilian claimed that he lost consciousness in the sauna and as a result suffered severe burns and scarring on his head, back, and arms, which eventually required two skin grafts.

Wassilian sued health club owner L.A. Fitness, as well as the sauna manufacturer, installer, and the general and electric contractors.  He claimed that each of the defendants failed to properly maintain the sauna, leading to a dangerous condition.  Prior to trial, the contractors were dismissed and Wassilian settled with the manufacturer and installer. The case proceeded to trial against L.A. Fitness only.

Wassilian argued that L.A. Fitness improperly operated and inspected the sauna, and allowed it to get too hot, causing him to lose consciousness.  In response, L.A. Fitness argued that Wassilian had signed a liability release; that Wassilian assumed the risk of using the sauna in light of his known heat sensitivity and use of medications that cause drowsiness; that it conducted appropriate inspections of the sauna; and that there were no prior similar incidents.  L.A. Fitness also contended that Wassilian may have been trying to hurt himself in the sauna.

After a five-day trial in the Los Angeles County Superior Court, the jury returned a defense verdict after just 35 minutes of deliberations, finding that L.A. Fitness’s actions did not cause Wassilian’s injuries. 

(Wassilian v. L.A. Fitness et al., L.A. Sup. Ct. Case No. PC044251).