Jury rejects Harry Reid lawsuit against fitness band maker

Laurin Quiat, a lawyer for an elastic exercise band maker, delivers his closing arguments to the jury during former U.S. Senator Harry Reid's civil trial at the Regional Justice Center, Friday, April 5, 2019, in Las Vegas. Reid sued the makers of an exercise band after injuring his eye. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal via AP)

A jury in Las Vegas rejected former U.S. Sen. Harry Reid's lawsuit against an exercise band maker he blamed for injuries including blindness in one eye suffered in January 2015

LAS VEGAS — A jury in Las Vegas flatly rejected former U.S. Sen. Harry Reid's lawsuit against an exercise band maker he blamed for injuries — including blindness in one eye — he suffered when the stretchy device slipped from his grasp and he fell face-first a little more than four years ago.

After eight days of testimony, the eight-member civil trial jury deliberated about an hour before declaring that Reid never proved the first of 10 questions they were asked to decide: that the device Reid used that day was a TheraBand made by Ohio-based Hygenic Corp.

Jurors never saw the actual device because Reid's adult son, attorney Leif Reid, disposed of it soon after Harry Reid was injured.

Reid and his wife, Landra Gould, weren't in the courtroom when the verdict was read. The 79-year-old former Democratic Party leader used a wheelchair throughout the two-week trial, following treatment for pancreatic cancer and back surgery.

Their lawyer, James Wilkes II of Tampa, Florida, said he respected the Nevada jury's decision. "I may not agree with the outcome, but I agree with the way we got there," Wilkes said.

TheraBand lawyer Laurin Quiat was subdued in victory.

"My client always believed in the product, believes that the product is safe, is not unreasonably dangerous for anyone, and they stand behind it," he said. "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 like Reid to use.

Reid's attorneys dropped a negligence claim after several days of testimony that began March 27.

Reid testified last week his injuries were "the main factor" 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 Party leader in the Senate when President 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 that 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. Resistance bands are not complicated," Quiat said. "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 then tried for months to get Reid to improve his stance, balance and technique when using the device in a rowing-style upper body fitness regimen.

The former boxer, Nevada gambling commission member and lieutenant governor was first elected to the U.S. House in 1983. He was elected to the Senate four years later and served for 30 years.

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