Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Bicycle Accident Leads to Lawsuit against Target Inc. and Pacific Cycles, Inc.

I love bicycles.  I have quite a few bicycles.  For me the correct ownership formula for bicycles is your current stock +1.  Usually the acquisition of another bicycle is a happy event.  But not always.

My client was 11 years old when her parents purchased a new Schwinn bicycle from the Target Store.  The store assembled the bicycle.  The family eagerly picked up the bicycle.  It was a smaller mountain bike, shiny and sparkly.  It had fenders mounted on it to keep it clean.  It was very smart looking and the little girl was very pleased.

The little girl use the bicycle without incident until one day several months later she was pedaling on her way home.  While she was just riding along the front fender became disconnected from the front forks.  When the fender became disconnected it fell down forward onto the front tire.  When it made contact with the front tire it grabbed the front tire and locked up the wheel.  When the wheel locked up the little girl was pitched over the handlebars and slammed onto her face causing significant obvious facial injuries, dental injuries and less obvious other injuries.

An investigation into the bicycle revealed that the fender was held on by a regular nut.  Things that move such as bicycles vibrate.  Things that vibrate tend to loosen.  The customer does not know this but the bicycle company certainly does.  They can take steps to prevent critical parts from vibrating loose.  Instead of using a flat washer they could use a split washer.  Better yet, instead of using a regular nut, they could use an aviation lock nut.  An aviation lock nut is not just for airplanes.  Many bicycles have them installed.  An aviation lock nut has a small nylon insert which grabs the threads of the bolt and keeps it from loosening.  This bicycle did not have any sort of proper device to keep that fender on.  Further, many fasteners are kept on by torquing them to the proper tightness.  Using a torque wrench establishes that the fastener is neither too tight nor too loose.  When the bicycle was assembled by Target Incorporated there is no evidence that they used the proper assembly tools.

An aviation lock nut probably costs five cents more than a regular nut.  I can't believe that the manufacturer would be so cheap as to risk the safety and well-being of their customers in order to save a few pennies.

I made a claim upon both the manufacturer as well as the retailer requesting they compensate my client for her terrible injuries.  I thought I laid out her case in a logical and persuasive manner.  I presented the evidence of the injuries.  Without explanation they denied the claim.

My client recently filed suit claiming that both the manufacturer as well as the retailer are liable for injuries under a series of product liability, negligence and breach of warranty.  The case is in early stages of litigation.  In a strict products liability case, the plaintiff does not need to prove that the manufacturer was negligent.  If the plaintiff proves that the product is defective in some way, the manufacturer is strictly liable for the harm.  In my mind, this is a flagrant mistake and the bicycle was defective in a significant way.  I will update how this case turns out in the future.

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