Friday, May 29, 2015


Jury Rejects Fitness Club's Lawsuit Accusing Penn State Professors of Stealing Clients
by Steve Bauer on December 18, 2014 5:45 AM

A Centre County jury rejects a lawsuit that a State College gym owner filed against two former fitness instructors.
And in an about face, one of those instructors has won a defamation suit against her former employer.
The dispute goes back several years.
The original complaint was filed in December 2012 by attorneys representing David Corneal, the owner of The North Club at 1510 Martin St.
The lawsuit claimed that Claire Colebrook and Jinger Gottschall used confidential membership information in an attempt to siphon clients from The North Club in order to start their own fitness business.
Both Colebrook and Gottschall -- who are also professors at Penn State -- taught classes part-time at The North Club until November 2012. They later opened Fitology LLC at Westerly Parkway Plaza.
"David Corneal and The North Club alleged that Dr. Gottschall and Dr. Colebrook accessed and utilized confidential client lists to directly solicit customers which would be in violation of Pennsylvania law," says Bernie Cantorna, the attorney who represented the defendants.
In August of 2010 the pair signed a contract with The North Club that included a non-compete clause. However, a later contract, signed in August of 2012 made no mention of a non-compete clause. In court documents, attorneys for The North Club said the later contract "did not cancel or supersede the operative 2010 Agreements."
According to Cantorna, Corneal sent a letter to several Penn State officials, including then-president Rodney Erickson, outlining the allegations against Gottschall. The letter claimed that Gottschall had offered to perform a research study in partnership with the university's Kinesiology Department and had used the research for personal gain. The letter also states that Gottschall told students at The North Club she was starting her own studio and encouraged them to join the new club.
"Gottschall and Colebrook improperly used their position of trust as employees and agents of The North Club for the purpose of misappropriating The North Club's confidential and proprietary membership information to divert business from The North Club," said court documents filed in 2012.
Cantorna says, "We countersued alleging that they had defamed Dr. Gottschall. ... those allegations were effectively and essentially made to Dr. Gottschall's direct supervisors including the president of Penn State and that they were defamatory and damages were due."
In court documents filed Wednesday the jury ruled Gottschall and Coiebrook did not breach their contract with The North Club and that the plaintiffs did defame Gottschall and Fitology LLC. The jury ordered the plaintiffs to pay $10,000 in damages and $12,000 in legal fees.
Cantorna says there were efforts to settle the case right up until the trial began. "All we asked for from Mr. Corneal and The North Club was a letter of apology," he says, adding the letter "would be published privately to the individuals that [Corneal] had sent letters to, accusing Dr. Gottschall of conduct which we said was false and alleged was defamatory.
"Both of my clients are extremely pleased. They're grateful to the jury because they feel they gave a little bit of their good name back, which no one had any right to take." contacted Devin Chwastyk, the attorney representing Corneal in this case. Shwastyk says his client declined to comment.

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