A jury in Las Vegas flatly rejected a lawsuit brought by the former Democratic Senate majority leader Harry Reid against the maker of an exercise band he blamed for injuries, including blindness in one eye, suffered when the device slipped from his grasp and he fell face-first a little more than four years ago.
Reid and his wife, Landra Gould, were not in the courtroom on Friday when the verdict was read. The 79-year-old former Democratic leader used a wheelchair throughout the two-week trial, following treatment for pancreatic cancer and back surgery.
After eight days of testimony, an eight-member civil trial jury deliberated for about an hour before declaring Reid never proved the first of 10 questions they were asked to decide: that the device he used was a TheraBand made by Hygenic, a company based in Ohio.
Jurors never saw the actual device because Reid’s son, attorney Leif Reid, disposed of it soon after his father was injured.
Reid’s lawyer, James Wilkes II of Tampa, Florida, said he respected the decision.
“I may not agree with the outcome, but I agree with the way we got there,” Wilkes said.
TheraBand lawyer Laurin Quiat said: “My client always believed in the product, believes that the product is safe, is not unreasonably dangerous for anyone, and they stand behind it. That’s all I have to say.”
Reid and his wife sought unspecified monetary damages because they said the product was defective and the company failed to warn the public it was dangerous for elderly people to use.
Reid testified last week his injuries were “the main factor” in why he decided not to seek a sixth Senate term in 2016. Quiat, however, showed the jury a 2015 video news release in which Reid said his decision not to run had “absolutely nothing to do with my injury”.
Reid, the Democratic leader in the Senate when Barack Obama was in the White House, testified he wanted senators and voters to know he wasn’t incapacitated.
Quiat reminded jurors during closing arguments on Friday they would never know for sure if the device Reid was using was made by Hygenic.
The company attorney also raised questions about Reid’s truthfulness. He noted that Reid at first said the band broke, not that it slipped his grasp, and that it had been attached to a metal hook in the wall of the bathroom in his suburban Las Vegas home.
On the witness stand, Reid testified he looped a band through a shower door handle, not a hook, and that he spun around and fell face-first against hard-edged bathroom cabinets when it slipped from his grip on New Year’s Day 2015.
Company experts and witnesses testified that Reid misused the device, making him responsible for blindness in his right eye, broken facial bones, fractured ribs, a concussion and bruises.
“This is not a complicated case,” Quiat said. “Resistance bands are not complicated. This case is about taking responsibility for one’s own actions.”
He said Reid used the wide flat resistance bands for several years without mishap after being given a band by congressional exercise therapists. Quiat said they tried for months to get Reid to improve his stance, balance and technique when using the device.