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Bicycle lawsuit against Wal-Mart

Discussion in 'The Lounge' started by sanjuro, Dec 5, 2005.

  1. sanjuro

    sanjuro Tube Smuggler

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    Boys hurt on bikes sue Wal-Mart, importer
    Marin trial to focus on wheel clasp used on millions of cycles
    - Demian Bulwa and Peter Fimrite, Chronicle Staff Writers
    Sunday, December 4, 2005

    Click to View

    Anthony McCurdy watched the front wheel fall off his bike while riding to a bowling alley, he says. The 12-year-old's face hit the sidewalk, and his bicycle landed on his chest. Short of breath, he got up, but then had a seizure and again fell face-first, knocking out his two top front teeth.

    Anthony, now a high school junior in West Chicago, said the crash more than five years ago changed him. "I'm just not as able to absorb information as I was before," he said.

    He and eight other boys from around the nation are suing retail giant Wal-Mart Stores Inc., which sold the bikes, and a San Rafael company that imported them from China. A trial in the case begins Monday in a Marin County courtroom, and the youths are expected to testify about smashing their faces into pavement after the front wheels came loose.

    The lawsuit asserts that the so-called quick-release devices on the front wheels malfunctioned when the bikes hit bumps. The clasps, used on millions of bicycles, are designed to hold the front-wheel axle to the frame and allow the wheel to be easily removed for repairs or transport.

    The boys and their parents also claim that Wal-Mart conspired with Dynacraft BSC Inc. of San Rafael and Carl Warren & Co., which investigated complaints for the importer, to cover up the defects.

    The suit alleges that Wal-Mart, which sold the bikes for about $150 each, and the Marin importer, which has a record of failing to report injuries, knew the bikes were dangerous because of complaints from users -- but failed to report alleged defects to government regulators while continuing to sell the bicycles.

    "Consumers in America deserve to be able to rely on the safety of products they buy for their children," said Mark Webb, a San Francisco attorney representing the boys, who crashed from February 2000 to September 2003.

    Among the evidence that will be presented in the trial is a display containing seven photographs of children ranging in age from 7 to 13 with gruesome, debilitating head wounds and gashes on the face. The bikes alleged to have defective wheel-release levers are no longer being sold, the plaintiffs' attorneys say, but many of them are in use.

    Wal-Mart says the bicycles in question -- mostly mountain bikes known as Next Ultra Shock and Next Shock Zone that had mechanisms allowing their front wheels to be removed with a hand lever -- are safe as long as they are "properly used."

    A company spokesman said that the bikes' quick-release feature has never been the subject of a recall or safety citation and that similar mechanisms are on millions of bicycles sold in the United States.

    "Our view of the facts is substantially different from the plaintiffs'," Wal-Mart spokesman Marty Heires said.

    Lawyers for the retailer and the importer of the bikes argued Friday that the plaintiffs' attorneys have gathered a wide variety of claims involving many makes and models of bicycles without showing a common link.

    "The problem is we have multiple allegations of multiple defects," Robert Phillips, an attorney for Wal-Mart, said during a pretrial hearing Friday. "There's no evidence that any of these claims have any similarities."

    Fletcher Alford, an attorney representing Dynacraft as well as insurance administrator Carl Warren & Co. of Orange, declined to comment in detail about the lawsuit but said, "They believe these claims have no merit, and they expect to be vindicated at trial."

    Under federal law, importers, distributors, retailers and manufacturers are required to tell regulators about anything "that could be a substantial product hazard or has injured or killed a consumer," said U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission spokesman Scott Wolfson.

    The firms are left to determine which injuries were caused by defects.

    Wolfson said the safety commission is investigating the parents' claims of defective quick-release levers. He declined to elaborate, saying the investigation is active.

    The parents, meanwhile, have started a Web site (shokbikes.org) warning others about the bicycles. The parents' lawyers say they do not object to quick-release systems in general. But the suit alleges that most of the families didn't receive manuals warning that "correct adjustment of the axle nuts or quick-release levers is vitally important to avoid an accident caused by loose wheels." The bikes were assembled by untrained Wal-Mart workers, according to the suit, and lacked adequate backup systems to keep front wheels in place.

    Eric Hjertberg, manager of new technology for Full Speed Ahead, an internationally respected bicycle component-maker, said quick releases on bicycles have generated at least as much litigation over the years as all other bicycle parts combined.

    As a result, manufacturing standards have improved dramatically and, Hjertberg said, it is now very unlikely that one would release on its own or after hitting a bump. Other safety devices, such as notches on fork tips dubbed "lawyers lips," have been developed to prevent wheels from falling off in the event of quick-release lever malfunctions.

    "A quick release is a pretty sound system when it is correctly installed," Hjertberg said. "It is extremely reliable. The fact that they are used in the Tour de France and the Olympics shows that they are built using the highest standards. But I would agree that without the instructions, there would be greater risk."

    Wal-Mart and Dynacraft knew of problems with the front wheels but continued to sell the bikes, the Marin lawsuit alleges. None of the parents were told that similar accidents had occurred on the bikes imported by Dynacraft, and as a result, some of them accepted small cash settlements for medical costs, according to the suit. Anthony McCurdy's mother said she accepted $5,000.

    Ryan May-Carman crashed in March 2003 while riding his mountain bike over a speed bump on his way to the library in Melbourne, Fla. The boy, who is now 15 and lives in San Jose, had stitches where his top two front teeth -- which broke in half -- tore through his upper lip. He's still awaiting permanent crowns for his teeth.

    His mother, Cynthia May-Carman, said a Wal-Mart manager at first declined to do anything for her but produced a claim form when she brought up medical costs. She's been dealing with insurance adjusters since then. Her son's Boy Scout master, who had inspected the bike before a ride, was interviewed. But she never got a refund for the bike.

    For more than two years, Wal-Mart has been reporting defective products under specific rules adopted after the company was accused of failing to report instances in which customers were injured while trying exercise equipment in stores.

    The Consumer Product Safety Commission, meanwhile, fined Dynacraft $1.4 million a year ago after accusing the company of failing to report defective forks on the steering column of hundreds of thousands of mountain bikes. Those bikes are not the ones targeted in the lawsuit alleging faulty front-wheel releases.

    The penalty was assessed after five recalls over the course of 18 months. According to the commission, Dynacraft continually underreported injuries, including concussions, broken bones and a blood clot in one rider's brain, and failed to pull defective bikes from store shelves in a timely manner.

    Anthony's mother, Sandy Huber, said she regrets that she didn't take her son's bike back sooner after he crashed in September 2000. She said he had to tighten the lever on the quick-release mechanism almost every time he went for a ride. Her then-husband also tried to fix it. After the crash, she said, an insurance adjuster sent her a letter telling her that her son had been negligent.

    "I think that's a bunch of B.S.," Anthony said. "I just used the bike to ride from place to place."
     
    #1 -   Dec 5, 2005

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  2. binary visions

    binary visions The voice of reason

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    Good.

    I hate Wal-Mart bikes. They're shoddily made and not intended to stand up to even mild use.

    My sister got turned off to the whole riding thing after she went for exactly two rides and bent her rear rim, and her brakes never worked right, even after I spent an hour adjusting them, replacing pads, sanding the surface, etc.

    I'm all for inexpensive products, but if they won't hold up to your average idiot's trips to the bowling alley, then they don't deserve to be on the market.

    If you can't meet a price point with a safe product, then you need to change the price point, not cut corners with the product. :rolleyes:
     
    #2 -   Dec 5, 2005
  3. N8 v2.0

    N8 v2.0 Not the sharpest tool in the shed

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    All that is well and good but no one wants to spent more than $200 on a bike.
     
    #3 -   Dec 5, 2005
  4. Smelly

    Smelly Turbo Monkey

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    ^^ agreed (w/binary). Those bikes are just plain dangerous. I've seen lots of people turned off from riding because of those things, and lots of pissed off customers because they had to spend $100 to make a $65 bike work.
     
    #4 -   Dec 5, 2005
  5. Echo

    Echo crooked smile

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    The good thing is that Wal-Mart is getting sued.

    The bad thing is that 99% of the population are complete morons who don't know the difference between a Wal-Mart bike and a real bike.
     
    #5 -   Dec 5, 2005
  6. N8 v2.0

    N8 v2.0 Not the sharpest tool in the shed

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    I am amazed at the number of people who are freaked out when they learn that a decent bike is going to cost them $800+ for a low end cycle.
     
    #6 -   Dec 5, 2005
  7. Echo

    Echo crooked smile

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    You can get an entry level mountain bike that is safe to ride, from a real bike shop, for under $400.
     
    #7 -   Dec 5, 2005
  8. N8 v2.0

    N8 v2.0 Not the sharpest tool in the shed

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    That's true... my daughter's Trek was around that.
     
    #8 -   Dec 5, 2005
  9. Tenchiro

    Tenchiro Attention K Mart Shoppers

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    Even though I have no love for Walmart. I have even less faith in the average persons ability to set up a quick release.

    I wounder how many of the plaintiff's are actually at fault here...
     
    #9 -   Dec 5, 2005
  10. robdamanii

    robdamanii OMG! <3 Tom Brady!

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    It's much more amusing to watch them cringe when you tell them that your fork cost twice as much as their whole bike.
     
  11. N8 v2.0

    N8 v2.0 Not the sharpest tool in the shed

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    That's fun, but last week I had a blast telling a co worker that my bike cost more than the low-mileage 1997 Honda Civic he was bitching about having to buy... :p
     
  12. kinghami3

    kinghami3 Future Turbo Monkey

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    In class the topic of how much my bike cost came up. I said $900 (talking about my old HT), and the rest of the class could not, for the life of them, believe it. I always have a hard time describing the kind of mt. biking I do without using the word "extreme," but it seems to come down to that.
     
  13. robdamanii

    robdamanii OMG! <3 Tom Brady!

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    Which bike are we talking about here?
     
  14. N8 v2.0

    N8 v2.0 Not the sharpest tool in the shed

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  15. binary visions

    binary visions The voice of reason

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    If the option to buy garbage didn't exist, the thinking would change, wouldn't it?

    The only reason people think they can buy a $100 bike is because Wal-Mart sells a $100 bike.

    A ridable, entry level bike can be had for $250 from your LBS - my sister's entry level Schwinn Mesa, that we replaced the crap bike with, only cost a little more than that. It came with linear pull brakes, decent knobbies and components that actually lasted for a while.

    I realize many people cannot afford to spend $300 on a bike. But if you can't buy a safe bike, you should not buy a bike at all. Look to buying used bikes.

    Wal-Mart bikes spend too much money on "features" and not enough on safe, reliable parts. You can spend $150 on a full suspension bike with linkage and a chrome paint job. If they spent the money from that front & rear shock & linkage on a solid rear triangle and rigid fork, they could probably hit a good price point on a bike that wouldn't collapse while riding down the street. That bike wouldn't sell as well compared to the feature-laden competition, though, so they don't make it. And the competition won't make one, because everyone else has a full suspension design, so they need to sell... ad infinitum.

    There's some corporate responsibility here but nobody wants to hear about it, they just want to see the profits :rolleyes:
     
  16. robdamanii

    robdamanii OMG! <3 Tom Brady!

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    NOICE.

    Do I see FSA cranks?
     
  17. N8 v2.0

    N8 v2.0 Not the sharpest tool in the shed

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    Indeed.
     
  18. SK6

    SK6 Turbo Monkey

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    The plus to suits like this is that is intended to hold manufacturers responsible. While everyone here know that a purchase of one of those bikes is a waste of time money and effort, however, the general public does not know. Sadly there are no statutes for stupidity or ignorance.

    That being said, the bike manufacturer in this instance is applying the formula. The formula is this. Would it cost me more or less to fix the problem than it would to settle out of court? Many times, it is easier to deal with a lawsuit than to repair a problem. FACT: 90% of ALL lawsuits are settled out of court.

    Sadly, however, it gives legitimate bike companies a bad name because of the general publics ignorance. Proof of this you ask? Tell &#8216;em how much you paid for your front fork! :D

    Just thought you should know.
     
  19. -dustin

    -dustin boring

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    i wonder if he checked his QR before riding?

    i'm glad Tenchiro is not jumping on the anti-Wal-Mart bandwagon. i thought i was a lone soldier for a while.

    i notice there is no mention of whether or not anyone had a helmet on...
     
  20. robdamanii

    robdamanii OMG! <3 Tom Brady!

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    Carbon, yes?

    Are they the MegaExo external cup BB setup or are they isis drive?
     
  21. N8 v2.0

    N8 v2.0 Not the sharpest tool in the shed

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    K-force mega-exo carbon FSA's
     
  22. ET_SoCal

    ET_SoCal Monkey

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    I bought some x-mas lights from them Friday (I hid my face from view)

    Funny to Google "walmart is the devil"; you get 2,550,000 hits :p
     
  23. Reactor

    Reactor Turbo Monkey

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    Dirt Rag did an article about Big box retailers last year. They broke both the bikes the bought within a couple of hours of riding extremely easy dirt trails. Both bikes came "assembled" from walmart and another store (Kmart?) and were death traps. Loose bolts, no grease where needed or way too much.

    I bought my daughter a bike from Toys R US a couple of years ago and spent more time fixing it than she spent riding it. This year I bought her a 16" Specialized form the LBS and haven't had to touch it except to put air in the tires.
     
  24. Hawkeye

    Hawkeye Monkey

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    Quick story about front wheels falling off of cheap bikes.

    I was walking out of front of the office last summer on Clark st (one way south bound) There was not much traffic at the moment and this kid comes down Clark northbound and he goes to hop the curb to get on the sidewalk and the front wheel disconnects and the bottom of the fork turns and goes into the spokes.

    Guy goes flying head first (feet over head) and lands head first onto the concrete. He lays there for at least 3 mintues eyes rolled backin his head and his arms and legs are twitchung. Out cold, blood coming out of his head (no helmet). I go run out in the street with 3 other people. We don't move him at all but I take the bike and tried to attach the wheel back on but the spokes are just trashed at least 10 are bent and broken. He comes to and moves to the curb asking what happened blah, blah, blah. We tell him and are waiting for the paramedics. As soon as he hears the ambulance he gets up grabs the bike and takes off.

    I don't know if it was the bikes fault or maybe he forgot to close the release but it was a scary, scary deal.
     
  25. N8 v2.0

    N8 v2.0 Not the sharpest tool in the shed

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    For most people, getting an expensive bike for a kid ain't gonna happen.

    Kids grow so fast that they are usually destined to ride whatever kind of bike their parents bought for them for the next 3-5 years.

    WalMart bikes suck and suck bad.
     
  26. binary visions

    binary visions The voice of reason

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    Doesn't matter. Wal-Mart bikes have a history of being unsafe, with many recalls and reports of failure.

    Yes, this guy might have been at fault for this particular accident. There's a good possibility he wasn't wearing a helmet, either. But that doesn't change the fact that the brands carried by Wal-Mart and a lot of other department stores are poor quality and have a track record of falling apart. Thus, even if this particular person isn't in the right, the lawsuit is a good thing.
     
  27. stinkyboy

    stinkyboy Plastic Santa

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    They knew of the problem, and didn't return the bike, and allowed the kid to continue riding it. They are negligent.

    Case dismissed.
     
  28. -dustin

    -dustin boring

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    the lawsuit is in regards to "the so-called quick-release devices on the front wheels malfunction[ing] when the bikes hit bumps." if anything, the lawsuit should revolve around questionable products being put together by incapable employees. not QRs that should be checked prior to every ride, anyway.
     
  29. robdamanii

    robdamanii OMG! <3 Tom Brady!

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    How are they then? Does that lightness come with an appropriate amount of stiffness?
     
  30. N8 v2.0

    N8 v2.0 Not the sharpest tool in the shed

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    I feel no difference in flex between them and my old XTR's... and they are lighter.
     
  31. SK6

    SK6 Turbo Monkey

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    ****BUZZ**** Sorry, thank you for playing! Please play again. :D :p


    Negligence laws in 45 of the 50 states use the &#8220;Comparable Negligence Theory&#8221;. This theory states that the amount of liability is offset buy the amount of liability of the plaintiff. In other words, if the plaintiff failed to tighten the QR, they still have suit since a jury could say that the manufacturer is liable for only 75% of the negligence, while plaintiff is responsible for the other 25%. Plaintiff can still seek to recover.





    *****Disclaimer: This is strictly discussion of legal theory and shall in no form or fashion constitutes legal advice or the practice of law. For legal advice, it would be prudent to contact a competent attorney.*****
     
  32. jimmydean

    jimmydean The Official Meat of Ridemonkey

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    My wife used to say all she needed was a wal-mart bike until I bought her a new bike from the shop. It was around $200 for a Raleigh M80 in 2001. It has a nasty threaded fork, cheap parts, but it's still a million times better than the bike she had (from wal-mart) and now she wants to upgrade.

    I have also taught her as well as my daughter to do a basic bike check before riding, just to make sure.

    I would never trust the jack-asses who work at wal-mart to put together ANYTHING, let a lone a bike!
     
  33. -dustin

    -dustin boring

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    well ain't that interesting.
     
  34. SK6

    SK6 Turbo Monkey

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    Per www.findlaw.com


    comparative negligence

    1 a : negligence of one among multiple parties involved in an injury that is measured (as in percentages) according to the degree of its contribution to the injury
    Example: the comparative negligence of the plaintiff

    b : a doctrine, rule, or method of apportioning liability and damages in tort law: negligence and damages are determined by reference to the proportionate fault of the plaintiff and defendant with the negligence of the plaintiff not constituting an absolute bar to recovery from the defendant

    Note: The great majority of states have replaced the doctrine of contributory negligence with that of comparative negligence.
     
  35. stinkyboy

    stinkyboy Plastic Santa

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    They had the bike for years, and did nothing to correct the problem. As many Americans don't/can't seem to realize that YOU are responsible for your own safety. Oh oh, my chain saw chain is loose, why don't I cut some firewood, and then sue when it wraps around my head. SOOOOOO many Americans are dumb asses, and feel they can sue because a company hasn't compensated for their ignorance. You went there and bought some crap, and that's what you're left with.

    I had a seat post break yesterday, and came close to walking with "a gimp limp". Should I sue somebody?

    Don't get me wrong, I have never been to a WalMart, nor would I ever shop there, but wake the fug up people.
     
  36. Echo

    Echo crooked smile

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    You guys are having the classic arguement where one dude is talking about how things are, and one dude is pontificating about how things should be. It's fun to watch.
     
  37. Westy

    Westy the teste

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    That is a horrible thing to say, it should not be fun to watch.
     
  38. stinkyboy

    stinkyboy Plastic Santa

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    :blah:
     
  39. stinkyboy

    stinkyboy Plastic Santa

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    I LOVE this line!

    Her then-husband also tried to fix it, but the game was on and he had to get to the bar to meet his buddies.
     
  40. SK6

    SK6 Turbo Monkey

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    Dude, I personally agree 100%. However, the system is set up to keep manufacturers honest. What if mom kept tightens the QR for junior… but would only come loose after 5 minutes…Is it her fault if the QR is defective? If she’s not a wrench, how would she have any knowledge? The manufacture has a duty to the foreseeable plaintiff, in this instance the mother.

    That’s one side of it.

    Conversely, what if mom was warped, and in fact had loosened the QR, blaming the manufacturer and retailer, and it was discovered? Case dismissed? Or the mother and father had the knowledge of how to properly tighten a QR, and neglected to do so this one time, but have done numerous times in the past, as witnessed by friend’s family and neighbors?

    It’s a game is all I’m saying, and there are two sides to EVERY case, not all of them are right, not all of them are wrong…

    And the chain saw thing is my favorite, because there were a couple of cases where the moron had NO idea what he was doing, and still had a cause of action and won.

    I deal with this in school everyday. I’ll get my B.S. of Science in Paralegal Studies in one year. Once finished, I’m going to go to law school. That’s why I have to put the disclaimer