Woman Dies in Gym Bathroom, Lawsuit Alleges Worker Ignored Her

Emily Hamlin collapsed in a Planet Fitness bathroom on Long Island last February

By Pei-Sze Cheng
|  Wednesday, Jun 26, 2013  |  Updated 9:10 AM EDT
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A 22-year-old woman died in a Planet Fitness in Bay Shore while a male employee refused to enter the women's bathroom to help her when she collapsed, a lawsuit alleges. Pei-Sze Cheng has this exclusive interview.

NBC 4 New York

A 22-year-old woman died in a Planet Fitness in Bay Shore while a male employee refused to enter the women's bathroom to help her when she collapsed, a lawsuit alleges. Pei-Sze Cheng has this exclusive interview.

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The family of a 22-year-old Long Island woman who died after collapsing in the locker room of her gym says the staff failed to take proper action when their daughter passed out.

"Things were really starting to happen for her," said Jeanine Hamlin, the mother of Emily Hamlin. "She was only 22, but her life was just cut off."

Emily Hamlin, of Central Islip, had gone to the Planet Fitness gym on Sunrise Highway in Bay Shore, N.Y. to work out on the morning of Feb. 6, 2012, according to her mother. She later collapsed in the bathroom of the women's locker room, and according to a lawsuit filed Monday, the front desk worker failed to respond right away.

According to a sworn statement given by a witness, the male worker said "he didn't know what to do and that he wasn't allowed to go into the ladies' bathroom."

Security video obtained from inside the gym by Emily's father, John Hamlin, paints a timeline of the events that morning. At 5:16 a.m., Stephanie Dick, a club member who heard Emily collapse in the bathroom stall, goes out to the front desk to ask for help. The worker does not leave his desk and does not pick up the phone.

It's not until a second woman is seen running out of the locker room and frantically pleading with the worker that he is seen picking up the phone. The time stamp on the video at that point is 5:21 a.m. -- five minutes after he was first made aware of the emergency.

"He should have walked in there to do something. My biggest issue is, why didn't he call 911 right away?" said Jeanine Hamlin. "It's the simplest thing in the whole world to do. You're not going to get fired for saving somebody's life."

Family attorney Scott Charnas said a "failure of corporate policy" was to blame.

"The club is open 24 hours, but they chose to staff it with only one person," said Charnas. "They had a rule that a person of the opposite sex could not go into the ladies' room, but they didn't have someone who is female on staff."

Charnas also said the gym did not have an automated external defibrillator or an employee certified in the operation of AEDs on site at the time, as the law requires. 

Planet Fitness declined to say whether the front desk worker was still employed at the gym, but released a statement saying: "The safety of our members is extremely important to us at Planet Fitness. At this time we have not been served, therefore we are unable to provide further comment."

Emily Hamlin died of a heart attack, according to her family. She had an underlying heart condition that was never detected before she died. 

Jeanine Hamlin said she's suing because she doesn't want this to happen to anyone else.

"It's been a nightmare," said Hamlin. "She was my best friend, and it's very, very sad and lonely out here."

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