Personal injury award believed to be largest in WNY history

A Cheektowaga woman left paralyzed when a weight machine fell on top of her six years ago has been awarded a $66 million jury verdict, believed to be the single largest personal injury award in Western New York history.

The verdict for Natalie M. Barnhard, a 30-year-old former physical therapy assistant, came after a nearly eight-week trial that focused on the design and operation of the exercise machine and included three days of testimony from Barnhard.

Cybex International, the Massachusetts-based manufacturer of the machine, expressed disappointment in the verdict and vowed to “pursue all avenues” to reverse it.

Lawyers for Barnhard called the award suitable, given the extent of Barnhard’s injuries, and described as emotional the moment when the jury returned Tuesday with its verdict.

“Natalie’s mom turned to me and said ‘thank you,’ ” said Kevin English, one of two lawyers from Phillips Lytle who handled the case. “She knows Natalie can now be taken care of for the rest of her life.”

Cybex, in a statement, suggested the verdict was not supported by the facts in the case or the law.

“We will vigorously pursue all avenues to attain a reversal of this verdict,” said Chairman and CEO John Aglialoro.

The accident occurred at Amherst Orthopedic Physical Therapy, which could be liable for part of the award.