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Defective Bicycle Case Weighed by Sixth Circuit

Most of the bicycle accident lawsuits that are pursued involve a cyclist who was struck by a motorists. The National Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports approximately 750 people annually die in bicycle crashes on public ways, with most of those occurring after the cyclist is struck by a car or other vehicle. bicycling

However some of these cases – as well as bike accidents that don’t involve cars – may be caused in whole or in part by a defective bicycle.

There are a host of potential defects that bicycles can have that could render them unsafe or even cause a crash. Some of those issues include:

  • Faulty frame welds
  • Brake issues
  • Pedals that come loose during operation
  • Broken chains or other drive train component problems
  • Tubes or tires that pop or blow out

The aftermath of a bicycle accident can be confusing, and it might not be clear right away that the cause of the accident was a defective bike. That’s why after receiving medical treatment after an accident, an injured person should retain possession of the bike and consider speaking to an attorney about how best to assess for possible defects.

We trust that companies are going to carefully design and manufacture these products, given that they are intended for fast-paced use on public roads, often around other vehicles. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always happen. Consumer Affairs contains an ongoing list of bicycle recalls. Recent recalls include issues with fork axles cracking, incorrectly sized seatstay parts that could cause a frame to collapse or brakes that can fail. The list goes on.

Short of a recall, though, proving a bicycle defect may be challenging. You’ll need an experienced legal team on your side.

Recently, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit considered a defective bicycle case: Applebaum v. Target Corp.

Plaintiff in this case alleged that the bike she had purchased from defendant was defectively repaired and had a brake issue that caused her to fall off the bike the very first time she rode it. She suffered severe shoulder injuries as a result.

Plaintiff purchased the bike from the store in February 2009 in Michigan. Initially, when she went to purchase the bike, she was told the store was sold out. However, she claims a store manager told her one of the bikes had been returned to the store after recent purchase because there had been a problem with the brakes. The store was repairing the bike and it would be available for purchase soon after. When plaintiff called again a few weeks later, the store manager reportedly told her the bike had been fixed and was in “perfect” condition.

The store manager remembers it differently. He recalls the conversation, but said there was no mention of the bike being repaired or defective in the first place.

After purchase, the bike was stored in a garage for the duration of spring and was only brought out on the 4th of July. Less than a mile into that first ride, plaintiff lost control of the bike and fell off. A passerby helped her up and noted that the brake had seized, clamping down onto the back tire. He unlocked the brake, which allowed him to wheel the bike back to plaintiff’s car.

Plaintiff took the bike back to the store, alleging she had fallen off and cited the faulty repair that took place before she got it. The store, however, had no record of the bike ever being repaired. The bike also, by plaintiff’s own account, had cardboard and foam between the components, which is only available when the bike is “brand new, out of the box.”

The bike itself was never seen again. The store manager says plaintiff took it with her, while plaintiff says the store kept it. Either way, it was gone and not available to be presented as evidence.

Jurors took on the case and issued a verdict in favor of defendant.

Plaintiff appealed, arguing the evidence didn’t support the verdict. The Sixth Circuit disagreed. Although finding plaintiff had presented a lot of contrary evidence to refute the claims made by defendant, most of that was in the form of her own testimony. The fact that the jury gave less weight to her word was not unreasonable, the court found. The verdict was affirmed.

Call Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, Attorneys for the Injured, at 1-800-646-1210.

Additional Resources:

Applebaum v. Target Corp., Aug. 2, 2016, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Cicruit

More Blog Entries:

Families of Two Killed in Florida Bike Accident Receive $7M in Damages, May 7, 2016, Fort Myers Bicycle Accident Lawyer Blog