Ms Irwin joined a gym owned by Fernwood in an attempt to lose weight and improve her fitness. The gym required new members to complete a questionnaire, which included questions about previous injuries. Ms Irwin disclosed that she had dislocated her left knee five years earlier, for which she wore a brace for several months. A personal trainer employed by Fernwood enquired as to the present state of Ms Irwin's knee and her response satisfied the personal trainer that the previous injury would not cause a problem during exercise.
The personal trainer devised a training program for Ms Irwin. One of the exercises prescribed was 'lunging', which involves putting one leg in front of the other and leaning forward, putting weight on the front leg. When Ms Irwin attempted her first lunge, she dislocated her left knee and collapsed to the floor.
Ms Irwin claimed that Fernwood breached its duty of care in that its enquiries about the condition of her knee were inadequate and that an unsuitable exercise regime was prescribed.
The Court agreed with expert testimony that the lunge exercise is dangerous for a person with a pre-existing knee injury such as Ms Irwin's. The Court also found that Fernwood breached its duty of care by failing to take adequate steps to ensure that it fully understood the nature and extent of Ms Irwin's pre-existing injury. These steps should have included more detailed questioning as to the nature of the injury, seeking further information about her medical history and instructing her to undertake a further medical examination. The fact that Fernwood did not take these steps led to an inappropriate exercise regime being prescribed that was dangerous in the circumstances and caused her to be injured.
Belna Pty Ltd t/as Fernwood Fitness Centre Parramatta v Irwin