Feasterville, PA — B&R Family Fitness Center in Feasterville, PA, is suing LA Fitness in Huntingdon Valley, PA, claiming that LA Fitness employees are dissuading prospective members from joining B&R by telling them that the company is on the verge of bankruptcy, closing or has other financial problems.

B&R filed a complaint in the Bucks County (PA) Court of Common Pleas last month, alleging claims against LA Fitness, based in Irvine, CA, for intentional interference with prospective business relationships, defamation, commercial disparagement, unfair competition and violations of the federal Lanham Act, which prohibits false advertising, among other activities.

Michael Eidel, an attorney for B&R, says that claims about these tactics began seven months ago. In response, B&R hired a former FBI investigator to pose as a potential customer at LA Fitness. The investigator came back to B&R with similar claims to those made previously.

Eidel says B&R is not filing for bankruptcy, is not closing and is relatively healthy. Since the lawsuit was announced, Eidel says other prospective members have come forward with similar claims about LA Fitness employees.

"It's a very damaging message to put out there about a local health club," Eidel says. "It's one thing for a national chain to put out a national media blitz and have a huge advertising budget. When you're picking on a local club, that's a little bit different. They don't have a lot of remedies to get back their reputation in the local community."

Last year, the 80,000-square-foot B&R, which opened more than 30 years ago, received the "Best in Bucks" Philadelphia Inquirer Readers' Choice Award.

LA Fitness avoided a hearing scheduled for Dec. 31 by stipulating to B&R's request for an injunction. A trial could begin in the fall, Eidel says.

The attorney representing LA Fitness could not be reached for comment.