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Defective Bicycle Lawsuit: Applebaum v. Target

Florida bicycle accidents that result in serious injuries are often caused by collisions with motor vehicles. However, there are some bike accidents that are the result of defective bicycles. 

In those situations, depending on the circumstances, there are a number of entities that may be held responsible. Those include:

  • Designers
  • Manufacturers
  • Wholesalers
  • Distributors
  • Retailers

However, in order to hold any one of these entities accountable, plaintiffs need to prove there was a defect in the bike and that this defect was the cause of plaintiff’s injuries. 

Some of the most straightforward bicycle defect cases involve those in which there has been a recall. For example, Trek Bicycles announced a recall of nearly 1 million defective bicycles last year, after it became apparent that an improperly-adjusted lever could result in the a brake failure that could cause wheel interference or even separation from the bike frame. There were reports of riders being pitched from the bicycle as a result. In one case, a rider even suffered injuries that rendered him quadriplegic.

In the recent case of Applebaum v. Target, plaintiff pursued the retailer for compensation for an injury she suffered after falling off her new bike the very first time she rode it, several months after purchase.

The primary dispute in this case was what caused the accident. Plaintiff alleged the bike was defective because it had been returned and improperly repaired by the retailer. However, retailer disputed that the bike had ever been repaired by its crew and denied that the bicycle was defective.

A big problem for plaintiff in this case was that:

  • The bike in question was not available for examination. She claims she turned in to defendant retailer after the crash, but retailer denies having ever received it.
  • Plaintiff’s case primarily rested on her own testimony, which jurors were free to believe or dismiss. Unfortunately, defendant presented more ample evidence of its case.

According to court records, plaintiff first spotted the purple bike – which she fell in love with – at a different store. A few weeks later, she went to a different Target, where she learned the model she wanted was sold out. However, she spoke to a manger who allegedly told her that one of the bikes had been returned for a brake issue but was being repaired by the store’s staff. When she called a week later to inquire, she was reportedly told by that same manager that the bike was now in “perfect” condition.

She bought it and then it sat in storage for several months until the weekend of July 4th, when she took it out for the first time. Less than a mile into that ride, she fell off. A passer-by who helped her noted the brake had locked, squeezing the wheel. He released the brake so he could wheel it back up to plaintiff’s car.

Plaintiff suffered shoulder injuries and sued the retailer for selling her a defective bike.

However, retailer insisted the bike was never defective, the manager had never told her there was a brake problem and they could find no evidence the bike had ever been repaired on site. In fact, the bike still had styrofoam pieces in between joints, suggesting, the retailer said, that it was “brand new, out of the box.”

Because the bicycle was not available and plaintiff did not have expert witness testimony to prove that there was more likely than not a defect in the bike, jurors only had her word against the retailers.

The case went to a jury, which decided on favor of defendant.

On appeal, plaintiff argued the jury verdict was not supported by the evidence. She argued that the retailer’s repeated claims that it hadn’t repaired the bike that caused her injuries lacked objectivity.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit disagreed that the verdict wasn’t supported by evidence, and found that while plaintiff did provide contrary evidence, the jury was free to decide which elements deserved greater weight of consideration.

Most cases come down to what a plaintiff is able to prove. Ample documentation, physical evidence, expert witness testimony – all these elements help. If you have been injured in a Florida bicycle accident, contact our legal team right away to learn more about how to best preserve this evidence and improve your chances of success in court.

Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights. Now serving Orlando, West Palm Beach, Port St. Lucie and Fort Lauderdale.

Additional Resources:

Applebaum v. Target, Aug. 2, 2016, Boca Raton Bicycle Accident Attorney Blog

More Blog Entries:

Gearhart v. Mutual of Enumclaw Ins Co. – UIM Anti-Stacking Language Invalid, Aug. 12, 2016, Boca Raton Bicycle Accident Lawyer

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