Jim Boyle Aug. 22, 2014, 8:51am


A Philadelphia woman says an employee at her local fitness center attacked her because of a dispute over a spinning class, according to a civil suit filed at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

Salima Cunningham, of the 1900 block of Row St., seeks compensatory and punitive damages from L.A. Fitness for assault and battery, defamation and negligent training of the employees at the Bala Cynwyd, Pa., location.

According to the suit, Cunningham arrived at the L.A. Fitness in Bala Cynwyd on March 23, 2013, to participate in a spinning class offered by the gym. One of the managers allegedly told Cunningham that there were no more spots available. Cunningham entered the classroom and found an operable bike that was not being used, and began to prepare it for exercise.

The suit says that the manager, defendant Ericka Beasly, approached Cunningham and began speaking loudly that she was not permitted to take the class. As Cunningham was leaving the center, she encountered another staff member to lodge a complaint. While speaking to the manager, Beasly allegedly started yelling back at Cunningham and repeatedly cutting her off as she tried to talk to the other manager.

Cunningham returned the next day to speak to a third manager, who allegedly told her that the situation would be addressed. Over the next couple weeks, Cunningham did not receive any notification that the problem had been resolved.

On April 13, 2013, Cunningham arrived at L.A. Fitness at 8 a.m., planning to take the 9:15 a.m. spinning class. She entered the classroom and strapped into an available bike, but did not sign in for the class because she did not think it would become full. When the instructor told the participants they needed to sign in, Cunningham left the room as directed. However, when she saw Beasly, she turned around and went back into the class.

The complaint says that Beasly then approached Cunningham and demanded to know if she had signed in. When Cunningham explained her reason for not signing in for the class, Beasly ordered her out of the room. The plaintiff refused to leave, and the commotion attracted another manager to the situation.

When the manager asked Beasly to step away for a moment, Cunningham complained that she had been targeting the plaintiff and harassing her. The suit says that Beasly suddenly began attacking Cunningham, striking her about the face with her fists. Cunningham struggled to get out of the bike as Beasly allegedly continued to attack her.

After both women separated, Cunningham went to the front desk to call the police. When authorities arrived, they took the plaintiff's statement and interviewed the L.A. Fitness employees. The officers informed Cunningham that Beasly would not be arrested on the spot, but the plaintiff could take her complaint to the district court and file charges. According to the complaint, the police also informed Cunningham that one of the managers said she had initiated the fight by putting her hands in Beasly's face.

Cunningham flatly denied that version of events, which was later supported by another guest who witnessed the incident, the suit says. The police talked to the manager again, who allegedly changed his story. The plaintiff's version was backed up by more witness statements, the claim says.

According to the complaint, Cunningham later went to Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, where she received treatment for head and facial injuries. She claims that she also suffered emotional distress, panic attacks, post traumatic stress disorder and depression and has started seeing a psychiatrist as a result.

Cunningham holds L.A. Fitness responsible for retaining Beasly's employment after her earlier complaints to the management. She also says L.A. Fitness defamed her when the manager told police that she had initiated the physical confrontation with Beasly.

The plaintiff is represented by attorney Reginald Allen.

The case ID number is 2:14-cv-04881-TON.

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