We were contacted by a family about a husband who had passed out in a steam room at a local YMCA. And in the steam room, he suffered a heat stroke. He had liver failure, kidney failure, and I think his internal temperature went well over 105, 106 degrees. They didn’t think he was gonna live. But somehow he did. He was in a coma for about a week and he survived. Now, when we were approached to look at the case, it was over six years after the event and the lawyer that was handling it had built the case around a mechanical failure of a timer. But when we looked at it, we learned that the YMCA had denied that the timer was ever broken or even ever replaced, and didn’t have a receipt or any document showing that the timer… So we were thinking, “What do we do now?”
We did the standard legal, discover, where you ask ’em and say, “Okay, give us your policies. Give us the prior events.” And they came up with… This local YMCA had no policies. It had no prior incidence claiming problems with the steam room. To us, that was important, because one of the things you have to do in these type of cases, is you have to prove that, not only was there a dangerous condition, but you had to prove that the YMCA knew about the dangerous condition and should have done something about it.
What we decided to do, is we refocused the case. Instead of just focusing on that timer breaking, we went and spread it out nationwide. And when we learned that the national YMCA had been setting standards regarding steam rooms, hot-tubs, and saunas for over 25 years before this thing took place, we found out that the YMCA’s own insurance carrier had been sending out warnings, not only to the national YMCA, but this YMCA in particular, about the dangers of these hot-tubs.
So we were able to prove that the YMCA knew that these things could be harmful to people and they had to be careful. We also learned the national YMCA had set up standards, along with other organizations, to set up standards about what to do for these hot-tubs, about how hot they were supposed to be, the maximum amount, and how long, the time people were supposed to be in there. And then more importantly, that they were supposed to develop a system where the places were gonna be monitored, where people would be inspecting ’em, okay? Just like if you sent your kid to go swimming, would anyone think it would be safe to let a kid go swimming in a pool by themself? Would any parent let their kid go to a YMCA swim event by themself, when they know there’s not gonna be a life guard there?
And I’m talking about, Michael Phelps’ mother wouldn’t let her son swim in a pool [chuckle] without a life guard there. Yet there, they had people going in these hot-tubs, that basically got so hot, it was off the charts when he did the heat index on these things. This thing went up to 120 degrees with a 100% relative humidity. The heat index was about 300 and plus degrees. Yet they had no one inspecting these things. They claim, in this particular case, that their system was, “Well, the janitor would kinda check it when he walked through, pick it up.” Well, that’s not a system. It’s definitely not a safety system. It was a hope and a prayer that no one was gonna get hurt or die. And well, we took the deposition of the safety manager for the YMCA, and we presented her with these programs, these safety procedures that were developed 20 years before this man had a heat stroke… The look of embarrassment on that person’s face, when they realized how easily this could have been prevented, if they’d only taken the time to use the safety tools that were available to them.
Well, hopefully, we’ve changed that. And hopefully, this one case changed that, where now they will take advantage of those safety procedures and no one else has to go through what this family did, almost losing a husband, a father, over something that could have been easily prevented by just having… Following the rules that were there.