For Immediate Release - October 05, 2009

Attorney General Martha Coakley Files Lawsuit Against Taunton Health Club and its Manager for Deceptive Solicitation of Pre-Paid Health Club Memberships

Over 100 Massachusetts Residents Paid for Memberships for Facility that Never Opened

FALL RIVER - Today, Attorney General Martha Coakley's Office filed a lawsuit against Fit 'N Fitness, a Taunton health club, its manager John Copell and an employee Gail Barbas, for their roles in soliciting and collecting membership fees for a health club that failed to open.

"Particularly where our economy is still fragile, consumers should be careful before signing contracts and paying advance fees. It is not uncommon for a business to fail before it has a chance to open. Consumers need to know with whom they are contracting with and the circumstances under which they are able to cancel the contract," said Attorney General Coakley. "In this instance, we allege that the defendants knowingly solicited membership fees for a health club that was not going to open. Our office filed this lawsuit today in order to seek restitution for these consumers."

According to the complaint, filed today in Bristol Superior Court, the defendants solicited consumers from September 2007 through September 2008 with false promises that the facility would open in January 2008. In order to persuade consumers to pay up front fees, the defendants represented to consumers that if they signed up before the facility opened, they would save money. According to the complaint, consumers pre-paid between $99.00 and $349.00 for different membership levels and were told repeatedly throughout 2008 by different employees of the health club that the club would be opening "soon." The complaint further alleges, that in November 2008, 10 months after the club was slated to open, the property appeared to be abandoned.

For additional information about health club contracts, visit the Attorney General's Website pdf format of AGO Guide to Retail Rights
. To file a complaint about Fit 'N Fitness, please call the Attorney General's Consumer Hotline at (617) 727-8400, or file a complaint online.

The Attorney General's Office is seeking injunctive relief, consumer restitution and costs of investigation and prosecution of this case. A hearing on the Attorney General's motion for a preliminary injunction has been scheduled for October 14 in Fall River Superior Court.

This matter is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Jeanne M. Veenstra with assistance of consumer mediator Diane Lopes Flaherty of the Attorney General's Southeastern Massachusetts Division. Jennifer Chaves of Attorney General Coakley's Investigations Division also assisted.