12th Street Gym beset by legal woes

12th Street Gym beset by legal woes

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The 12th Street Gym, an LGBT-oriented business facing potential closure under new ownership of the building, is a defendant in a federal lawsuit that the gym’s insurance company refuses to cover.

An Arizona woman filed the suit, claiming the gym hired Jerome P. McNeill as a masseur without conducting a proper background check. She claims McNeill sexually assaulted her in 2014 while giving her a massage at Loews Hotel in Center City.

The woman contends the gym had a business relationship in 2014 with Loews to operate a gym and spa at the hotel, where her alleged sexual assault took place.

Philadelphia Indemnity Insurance Company refuses to cover the gym in the woman’s case, noting that it already paid $1 million to settle a similar case filed by a Texas woman, according to court papers.

Attorneys for the insurance company couldn’t be reached for comment.

A discovery hearing was scheduled for Jan. 9 before Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge Patricia A. McInerney.

The Arizona woman’s case is headed for a jury trial in March before U.S. District Judge Gene E.K. Pratter, unless the judge grants a pending motion for reconsideration by the gym.

McNeill, 29, recently was convicted of indecent assault in a criminal case pursued by the Texas woman. She claims McNeill digitally penetrated her anus and vagina while giving her a massage at Loews.

When asked whether the ongoing litigation was impacting the gym’s ability to continue operating, gym co-owner Frank Baer referred questions to attorneys for the gym.

“It’s a firm policy that we do not comment on ongoing litigation” said Francis J. Deasey, one of the attorneys. “It’s for the protection of our client.”

David G. Concannon, an attorney for the Arizona woman, expressed confidence that a jury will vindicate her.

“I don’t care if my client ends up owning the building [housing the gym],” Concannon told PGN. “We’re going to pursue this case, whether or not the gym has insurance coverage. My client’s husband is a personal trainer. Owning the gym will give him something to do.”

Concannon added: “My client was dreadfully violated due to the gym’s negligence and the gym’s response to her complaint was callous.”

The building at 202-204 S. 12th St., which houses the gym, was recently sold to Midwood, a New York-based real estate and development firm. According to city records, the name of the legal entity on the deed is "South 12th Street Owner L.L.C." and the sale price was $7.4-million. There are multiple fire-code violations within the gym, according to Karen Guss, a spokesperson for the city's Department of Licenses and Inspections.

“[I]n November 2016, the Fire Department’s commissioner and its Board of Safety and Fire Prevention agreed to a plan and schedule allowing the property to be brought into compliance in stages, over a period of five years through December 2020,” Guss said in an email.

However, it’s unclear if Midwood will agree to house the gym as a long-term tenant. As of presstime, the status of the gym remained in question.

A spokesperson for Midwood couldn’t be reached for comment.

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