Hong Kong courts

Widow of Hong Kong man who died during fitness class sues gym chain Fitness First

Richard Wong was 57 when he died, in what an inquest recently found were natural causes. His wife says the company’s Kwun Tong branch was negligent for not having anyone who could use a defibrillator

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 12 September, 2018, 8:41pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 12 September, 2018, 8:41pm

A woman whose husband died during a fitness class has sued the gym company for negligence, which she said caused his death.

Jiang Huiyu filed the action at the High Court on Tuesday on behalf of her late husband Richard Wong Ying-ki, who died, aged 57, following a core muscle training session at the gym’s Kwun Tong branch in 2015.

The widow was joined by Chan Suk-yee, an executor of Wong’s estate, in the civil suit, which named Fitness First (Hong Kong) as the defendant, according to a court document made available on Wednesday.

It came just two months after a jury at the Coroner’s Court ruled that Wong, who suffered from heart disease, died of natural causes. During the four-day hearing in July, it was revealed that the Kwun Tong centre had no trainers who could operate an automatic external defibrillator (AED), which could have saved Wong.

The court document said the widow and Chan were claiming damages over Wong’s death “as a consequence of the negligence of the defendant” and its staff. It did not detail the amount sought.

According to inquest testimony, a postmortem examination found that three of Wong’s coronary arteries were 80 to 90 per cent blocked when he died.

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Without knowing that, Wong, a human resources director at a textile company, signed up for the training and attended the class on September 29, 2015.

He passed out in the middle of the class. He had said shortly before that the training was “tough”, but the trainer mistook it for an general comment, the inquest heard. It heard that the trainer thought Wong was resting, until she patted him on the shoulder and got no response.

She sought help from a manager, who performed resuscitation on Wong, to no avail.

The manager, who called the police, admitted that they did not use the AED because no one at the Kwun Tong centre knew how to use it.

The inquest ended with the jury suggesting that training courses be provided to teach the coaches how to use the machines.

Jiang testified during the inquest. She said Wong was suspected to have suffered a stroke in 2012, but later recovered. She said that since then he had been exercising more and put himself on a better diet.

She was not aware Wong had a heart condition, so she found it hard to believe he had suddenly died, she said.

No date was set for a hearing.