When our client came to us after suffering severe burn injuries in a Chicago-area health club steam room, we did not know whether there was a case. The only thing we knew was that our client followed his typical early morning routine: workout at his local gym followed by a steam in the men’s locker room. That morning, he awoke in the hospital and his nightmare began — ultimatley resulting in the amputation of all of his toes.
We felt this should have been prevented, and agreed to investigate this matter — ultimately hiring experts in plumbing, steam rooms, scalding, and burn injuries — to inspect the steam room and related materials to understand whether this steam room was reasonably safe and how this catastrophic event occured. After several years of investigation and litigation, we were able to prove that this steam room was not safe in two major respects:
- Contrary to the steam system’s Owner’s Manual and Safety Instructions, the steam head was installed and maintained 6 inches from the floor rather than the required 18 inches from the ground; and
- The warning sign, which was provided along with the steam room and required to be posted per the Owner’s Maual, was never posted — and, in fact, no safety warnings were posted.
There were additional safety concerns identified, such as the failure to use any type of “diffuser” or deflector plate on the steam head, however the major theories of liability were the two points above.
Furthermore, our experts were able to show that based on their temperature measurements of the steam room conductede during their inspection, in comparison to U.S. Governmental published data on the the temperature (of steam) and exposure time necessary to develop 2nd and 3rd-degree burns, our client would not have suffered any injury had the steam head been installed and maintained 18 inches from the ground.
We also hired a “human factors” expert in Warnings to opine that had the warning sign been posted, our client would have been afforded the opportunity to protect himself against exposure of this hazard, and would have had the information necessary to avoid losing consciousness inside the steam room and suffering these burns. Indeed, although our client had a history of uncontrolled seizure disorder, it was unclear what caused him to lose consciousness inside the steam room — and one of the major hazards associated with steam rooms, which was never communicated to the users, is the risk of losing consciousness due to hyperthermia (or overheating).
Finally, we were able to tell a complelling story through our client, his family, friends and colleagues — as well as his treating medical professionals and multiple burn injury experts — about the devastating nature of his burn injuries and what the future will likely hold for him, including the need for possible future surgeries.
In the end, we were able to reach a very favorable settlement for our client and his family given the difficult liability, proximate cause, and damages issues raised in this case. See below for an article on this result, which was published by the Cook County Law Bulletin: