A man has filed a lawsuit against Life Time Fitness, Chanhassen, MN, and the former Life Time trainer he accuses of sexually molesting him at the club as a teenager.
The man filed the lawsuit Thursday under the name John Doe in DuPage County (IL) Court. The alleged incident took place in the Life Time club in Warrenville, IL. Former trainer Robert Theodore, who was arrested last September on sexual abuse charges, also is named in the complaint.
The alleged sexual conduct began when the plaintiff was 16. (The plaintiff is now 22 and lives in Naperville, IL.) The abuse occurred in the club's hot tub and locker room as well as Theodore's and the plaintiff's homes and during training in Colorado, according to the complaint.
The plaintiff accuses Life Time of failing to conduct a proper background check before the company hired Theodore in 2001. (According to the complaint, Life Time hired Theodore as a track and triathlon trainer on Feb. 26, 2001, and he remained employed by the company until his arrest on Sept. 11, 2012.) Theodore, who will turn 61 on Feb. 27, was convicted of trying to molest an 11-year-old boy in Arizona in 1986, according to the complaint.
Life Time also did not act in 2003, according to the complaint, after Life Time's human resources department received a letter from a member of the community disclosing Theodore's conviction. The letter, dated Jan. 9, 2003, includes names and contact information of law enforcement officials in Arizona and Illinois and is signed by a "Concerned Member."
"That letter was essentially a gift to them," Brian Perkins, the plaintiff's attorney, told The Daily Herald newspaper. "It's really all Life Time needed to know to get him out of there, and we want to get to the bottom of what happened when HR got it. Why did they keep him on?"
In a statement obtained by Club Industry, the plaintiff's family said: "We cannot adequately express the pain we have experienced as a family, nor quantify the anger and sense of betrayal we feel towards Life Time Fitness … Three years after being notified that Mr. Theodore was a pedophile, Life Time assigned him to serve as our son's mentor, and Mr. Theodore used that position to gain our family's trust. Life Time did nothing and said nothing and allowed us, like other parents whose children were victimized, to deliver our most precious gift from God into the hands of a sick and depraved criminal."
Life Time spokesperson Jason Thunstrom told Club Industry today that he is unable to comment on the lawsuit, per the company's policies. Thunstrom reiterated what he said last September, that Life Time found the allegations "startling" and focused its efforts on supporting the local authorities in their investigation.
"Overall, we remain confident in our track record of providing members with safe, fun, family-oriented experiences and environments, not the least of which involves our programs and services for children," Thunstrom said in a statement.
Theodore pleaded not guilty Oct. 15 after he was arraigned on five counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse. Theodore's attorney, Tim Martin, told the newspaper his client "flatly denies" sexually abusing any children at Life Time. Martin also said Naperville police interviewed a dozen other children trained by Theodore, and they all denied being abused, the newspaper reported.
The plaintiff is seeking at least $50,000 plus legal fees and any further relief from the court.