The complaint, Juan Dorado, Michael Markzon, v. Bally Total Fitness Holding Corp., LA Fitness International LLC, was filed Sunday night in the United States District Court for Northern Illinois, Eastern Division, in Chicago.
The plaintiffs argue that Chicago-based Bally and Irvine, CA-based LA Fitness violated the Federal Honest Services Act, the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act and the Illinois Common Law Breach of Contract.
LA Fitness finalized its purchase of 171 Bally Total Fitness clubs for $153 million on Nov. 30 and, according to its website, was scheduled to close 36 of those acquired clubs. All 27 of the Chicago-area Bally clubs transferred to LA Fitness, and four of the clubs closed in December.
The lawsuit claims that LA Fitness is not honoring lifetime memberships and will not allow access to former Bally members unless they purchase a new membership. Also, the suit claims that LA Fitness clubs purchased from Bally in one area of the country, such as Seattle, are not honoring Bally memberships if they were purchased in another state, such as Texas. For other potential plaintiffs, there are no nearby LA Fitness facilities for former Bally members to use, according to the complaint.
Dorado and Markzon are both Chicago-area residents. Dorado owns four Bally lifetime memberships, which he purchased for himself and three family members, and Markzon owns one Bally lifetime membership, according to the complaint.
Dorado claims he was told that he and his family can still work out at a Bally club in St. Louis, which is approximately five hours from Chicago. Markzon claims that his membership was transferred to LA Fitness, but that the company is not honoring the membership because it was purchased in Kansas.
“Bally wants everyone to think that it made a mistake. It’s not a mistake,” says attorney Christopher Cooper, who is representing the plaintiffs in the complaint. “This shows an attempt, a real attempt, to deceive the public. You can’t tell me that the Bally executives and the LA Fitness executives didn’t realize that people have relocated to other parts of the United States. To me, it looks like fraud.
“This behavior by Bally and LA Fitness executives is disgusting behavior. It’s dishonest behavior. It’s wrongful behavior.”
In addition to requesting the court to make this a class-action case, the plaintiffs want their lifetime memberships honored and the opportunity to work out at a Bally or LA Fitness club. They also seek compensatory damages and costs and expenses incurred, including legal fees.
Bally says as a matter of corporate policy, it does not comment on pending litigation. LA Fitness said Tuesday night it had recently received the complaint and it has no comment at this time.
Last month, LA Fitness Principal Paul Norris told Club Industry that the company would honor all Bally lifetime memberships. Cooper says he has not seen that policy put in place.
Club Industry has received more than 60 comments to its website since the acquisition was announced. Most of those comments involve Bally members who have voiced their frustration about their memberships.