Lawsuit Exposes Health Club Secrets

CAROUSEL - Emergency personnel move pieces of a wrecked helicopter on a pier in Hoboken, NJ, Monday, Aug. 10, 2009. Divers hope to pull a plane out of the Hudson River on Monday, but their first priority is to recover the bodies of two remaining victims of the air collision that killed nine people, a chief investigator said. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
AP Photo/Seth Wenig
They are the hired professionals in the ongoing assault on fat. Almost every health club today has certified personal trainers, teaching clients how to bulk up or slim down.

They charge $20 to $100 an hour because they are the experts. And that's what Anne Capati thought working with her trainer at Crunch Gym in New York, when she suffered a brain hemorrhage and later died.

"She was relying on his expertise," say her husband Doug Hanson.

Hanson filed a lawsuit that has rocked the health club industry. The suit reveals that Crunch Gym sold Capati training with someone both certified and qualified in fields like nutrition. However, as CBS News Correspondent Wyatt Andrews reports, her trainer had not even finished a correspondence course.

"This course was a mail order course he signed up for just so he could get hired and then never followed up," says attorney Terry McCartney.

McCartney says Capati's trainer was not certified and did not have any specialties like nutrition or strength training.

The trainer, who knew Capati had high blood pressure, also suggested, in writing, diet supplements including Thermodrene, which contains the stimulant ephedra. The family charges the stimulants and the trainer's poor judgement led to Capatis' death.

"This trainer gave out life-threatening advice he wasn't near qualified to give," says McCartney.

The Capati lawsuit has helped expose two health club secrets. The first is sometimes a certified personal trainer isn't certified. The second is there is no standard -- national, state or otherwise -- for what the word certified means.

On the Internet for example, are dozens of online certifications. One Web site promises a certication for $39 and an online test. Many believe the lack of standards has led to thousands of unnecessary injuries.

Scott Ackerman, a former NFL strength coach, runs a health club where he says several clients need rehab from injuries suffered at other clubs.

"I have one with a neck injury, one's a lower back injury," says Ackerman.

He suggests greater regulation as a solution.

"A statewide board exam just like you would have in the medical community," Ackerman says.

The health club industry is calling on its members to demand top-flight certifications for trainers, ones requiring extensive testing and knowledge of anatomy. But it's all still voluntary.

Lawyers for the trainer tell CBS News he did nothing wrong. Crunch says it's unable to comment. Hanson plans to ask in court, why Crunch brochures - in this tragic twist of marketing - said clients would "meet fitness goals, or die trying."