Ryan Furtado bought himself a Peloton in July 2021. Seven months later, he was dead.
The 32-year-old was killed when the high-end interactive stationary bike toppled over and sliced open his carotid artery, leaving the beloved customer success manager to bleed out on the floor of his Downtown Brooklyn home.
That’s according to a lawsuit filed by Furtado’s mother and obtained by The Daily Beast, which reveals the first-known death involving a Peloton bike. In 2021, a 6-year-old child died after getting pulled into a Peloton treadmill, something company officials described as a “tragic accident.” Another similar incident involving the now-discontinued Peloton Tread Plus left a 3-year-old with a “significant brain injury,” regulators said, noting in an incident report that the boy was found with “tread marks on his back matching the slats of the treadmill.” (Peloton was ordered to pay a $19 million fine earlier this year over the treadmill issue.)
Furtado’s lawsuit is just the latest setback for Peloton, which roared to success during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the publicly traded company saw its star begin to fade once stay-at-home restrictions loosened. Since then, even make-believe exercise catastrophes have caused major headaches for the $2.2 billion firm. Its stock took a hit last year after a central character in the Sex and the City reboot was felled by a fatal heart attack immediately following his 1,000th Peloton ride. A month or so later, one of the key figures on the Showtime drama Billions suffered a heart attack while riding a Peloton—but the show’s writers let him live.
Furtado, who grew up in Hawaii, was using his Peloton bike to do a “Core” workout on Jan. 13, 2022, Johanna Furtado’s lawsuit states.
“The workout requires riders to disembark the bike to conduct exercises on the floor,” says the suit, which was quietly filed in March. “Ryan disembarked the bike and conducted the floor exercises. When rising from those exercises, Ryan used the bike to assist him in getting up.”
At that point, according to the lawsuit, “The bike spun around and impacted him on his neck and face severing his carotid artery in his neck killing him instantly. Ryan was found by the New York Police Department with the Subject bike still resting on his neck and face.”
The suit says Peloton instructs riders to “use the Bike for stretching,” but that “applying pressure on the Bike in a pulling and pushing fashion, caus[es] the Bike to destabilize and fall.” It also says Peloton should have predicted and warned against “the foreseeable misuse that people would also use the Subject Bike to pull themselves up from the floor during a workout increasing an unknown risk of injury to the user, such as the case with Ryan.”
There was a single warning label on the bike, located on the front right leg, which the lawsuit calls inadequate. Instead, it says Peloton should have affixed multiple labels to the bike’s stem and base “to adequately warn the user of injury that could occur if the Subject Bike is used to pull oneself up from the floor during a workout.”
In rebuttal, Peloton filed a response which laid the blame entirely at Furtado’s feet, insisting that he died due to his own negligence, and that the company is not legally responsible. Further, the response notes, Peloton users are “obligated to defend, indemnify and hold Peloton harmless based upon the provisions set forth” in its terms of service.
While the lawsuit ties Furtado’s death directly to Peloton, the way he died has never been made public until now.
An obituary in a local Maui news outlet said Furtado’s “life was flourishing,” and that his “kind heart, witty humor, and overall zest for life will be forever cherished and missed.” The University of Redlands graduate “was the best everything, son, grandson, brother, uncle and friend,” it continued. “In his life he loved his family, friends, traveling, music, baking, games and all things Star Wars. He loved the ocean and land alike and found adventures where he could. He left us far too soon and will be loved forever…….”
New York State Supreme Court
A GoFundMe campaign launched in the wake of Furtado’s death by one of his coworkers at B2B software firm Demandbase also didn’t mention any specifics.
“Beloved colleague, dear friend, shining star—that’s how we remember Ryan,” it said. “He was someone who made everyone feel welcome and special. Ryan was great at his job, and excelled at friendship—always there for his people, of whom there are many. We are grieving the loss of Ryan, and all of us want to find ways to help. The funds raised by this campaign will be sent to his family to help with the many unexpected costs they are now dealing with as they navigate this very difficult time.”
Johanna Furtado’s lawsuit says Peloton bikes are “defective and/or unreasonably dangerous,” and that its products expose consumers to “an unreasonable risk of harm.” At minimum, the company “failed to warn” that its bikes could tip over “when used as a brace to rise or go down.”
“As a direct and proximate result of the foregoing conduct of Peloton, Ryan was killed,” the suit states.
She is asking for Peloton to pay for, among other things, her son’s final healthcare expenses, funeral and burial costs, any financial support Ryan would have contributed to the family, and damages for the “conscious pain and suffering” he endured. In addition, the lawsuit demands compensatory damages for Johanna’s pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of enjoyment of life, and “the cost of all past and future medical and psychiatric care.”
Peloton’s attorneys, Matthew Miller and John Freedenberg, did not respond to The Daily Beast’s requests for comment. Reached by phone on Wednesday, Furtado’s attorney, Gennady Voldz, said he couldn’t discuss the case without permission from his firm’s publicity department.