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Toxic workout

Poor health conditions at a Canarsie gym may have led to the death of a dedicated employee, according to a lawsuit filed last week.

In a noticed of claim filed Thursday, the grieving family members of 36-year-old John Craig announced plans to sue both the Paerdegat Athletic Club and the city, which oversees the gym’s operation, for their son’s death.

Family members said that Craig worked at the health club six days a week for the last six years before his untimely death in March.

At the time, doctors said that Craig had died of heart failure.

But his family believed that exposure to mold and other airborne toxins – which were exposed during a recent audit by the City’s Comptroller’s office – could have led to his death.

His family is certain that Craig could have survived if there was a portable defibrillator on site, as well as someone trained to use one, they explained in court papers.

“He might have had a chance had there been a defibrilla­tor,” Craig’s mother, Julia Craig-Horne told the New York Daily News. “By the time the EMS got there it was too late.”

The family is expected to officially file their $20 million suit in the next few weeks.

Less than a month after Craig’s death, Comptroller William Thompson released a bombshell report revealing a slew of health hazards at the club, located at 1500 Paerdegat Avenue North.

The problems included a thriving mushroom patch breaking out from behind an outlet cover, dangerous dangling electrical wires and exposed electrical outlets in rooms packed with toddlers.

“There is no excuse for allowing conditions such as this to exist, particularly when toddlers and infants are being put at risk,” Thompson said in a statement. “This is outrageous that the city has allowed these incredibly disgusting and potentially hazardous conditions to exist.”

The facility is on city-owned land and under the control of the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation.

A Parks Department spokesperson told this paper that his agency is reviewing the materials submitted by the comptroller.

The city does not comment on pending litigation.

Legal tussle over tumble

A wheelchair-bound woman who won a negligence case against Woodhull Medical and Mental Health Center, the city’s Health and Hospitals Corporation and a local ambulette service went back to court recently demanding a new trial – one that will hopefully be more lucrative, according to court papers.

According to a decision handed down earlier this month, Judge Wayne Saitta has allowed a second trial in the matter of Suki Begum against Health and Hospitals and other parties involved in her initial 2005 suit.

Begum charges that she fell from her wheelchair down a flight of stairs as she was being taken out of Woodhull Hospital by the ambulette driver.

In the trial, which lasted two weeks between February and March, 2005, it was proven that the ambulette driver was behind the wheelchair-bound Begum, trying to ease the wheelchair down a narrow flight of fifteen steps when the seatbelt securing her into the chair snapped.

Begum, who suffers from Polio, slipped out of the chair and tumbled down the stairs, where she suffered substantial injuries, she claimed.

At the close of the trial, the jury found that the ambulette driver’s actions were negligent but that “the negligence was not a substantial factor in causing the accident.”

“The jury’s finding of negligence was based on the ambulette driver’s act of attempting to carry plaintiff down a narrow flight of steps alone and carrying her wheelchair from behind,” Judge Saitta wrote in his findings. “Evidence was also adduced that the hospital’s internal policies prohibited employees from carrying patients downstairs unassisted.”

Yet the evidence wasn’t compelling enough for the jury to find the ambulette company guilty of negligence, Begum’s attorneys wrote, adding that the initial “verdict was inconsistent and against the weight of the evidence.”

Saitta agreed, claiming: “Having found the manner in which the driver attempted to carry plaintiff down the stairs negligent, there is no rational basis to conclude from the evidence that the manner which he attempted to carry plaintiff was not a substantial factor in causing her fall.”

“[Begum] could not have fallen out of the wheelchair unless at some point while the driver was carrying Plaintiff, he had come to hold the wheelchair at such an angle that plaintiff’s center of mass shifted to a point outside the seat,” he wrote, when ordering a new trial.

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