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Summary Judgment granted for bicycle manufacturer and retailer on a breach of warranty and product liability claim.

Burns, v. Cannondale Bicycle Company, 876 P.2d 415; 239 Utah Adv. Rep. 57; 1994 Utah App. LEXIS 84; CCH Prod. Liab. Rep. P13,960

This is an odd case and one that probably was filed simply to recover money. Everyone once in a while, that happens.

In this case, the plaintiff purchased a Cannondale bicycle from The Bicycle Center. A month later while riding the bike, he went over the handle bar. His injuries were never specified in the complaint. Three years later, right before the statute of limitations ran, he filed suit against Cannondale and the retailer.

The statute of limitations is the time frame that a lawsuit must be filed. Legislatures have created laws for different types of lawsuits setting forth how long a plaintiff has to file a suit. Another way of looking at this, is defendants know that all lawsuits will be filed within a certain period of time, or they are barred.

Statutes of limitation vary by state. So a simple negligence claim may have a two year statute of limitation in one state and three years in a neighboring state.

The plaintiff filed suit for “breach of the implied warranty of merchantability, breach of certain express warranties, and products liability.” He also filed a claim for “negligent assembly” against the retailer.

The plaintiff claimed that something popped off the brake which clamped down the brake on the tire causing him to fall. However, the plaintiff’s expert and the defendant’s expert both testified that if the brake has failed as stated by the plaintiff the opposite would have happened. The brake would have released from the wheel not braking at all.

The trial court granted the defendant’s motion for summary judgment dismissing the lawsuit. The plaintiff then appealed the decision leading to this decision.

The plaintiff claimed at the appellate level that the doctrine of spoliation of evidence applied to this case. This doctrine says that if one party to a lawsuit destroys evidence than the evidence can still be introduced with the court will infer the evidence in the light most suitable to the other party.

However, that legal doctrine did not apply in this case because if any evidence was destroyed it was destroyed prior to the suit. The doctrine only applies once a party is on notice of a claim. You cannot destroy evidence if you don’t know the object being destroyed is evidence.

Generally there is no duty on the part of someone making repairs or a retailer to retain defective parts. A major exception to that rule is electronic communications, which is too broad to cover in this discussion.

The court also agreed that there was no product liability claim because there was no causation. Legal causation is proof that the defect lead to the injury. In this case, the plaintiff could not identify a specific defect; therefore, there was no causation or relationship to his injury. The plaintiff must identify the specific product liability defect to prove a case and cannot just claim the product failed.

Under Utah’s laws on product liability to win a product liability claim the plaintiff must prove.

“(1) that the product was unreasonably dangerous due to a defect or defective condition, (2) that the defect existed at the time the product was sold, and (3) that the defective condition was a cause of the plaintiff’s injuries.”

To win the plaintiff must prove more than the product just failed. The failure must have existed at the time the product was sold and the failure must have caused the plaintiff’s injuries.

So?

Everyone once in a while someone files a lawsuit for money. In this case, the plaintiff testified that he thought about the lawsuit after seeing a program on TV about Melvin Belli, a famous California attorney.

Just filing a lawsuit and having an injury is not enough to win a lawsuit or recover damages. Here the plaintiff and the manufacture stuck together to fight this claim. The parties proved that the plaintiff’s claims were bogus because the plaintiff failed.

What do you think? Leave a comment.

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27 Comments on “Summary Judgment granted for bicycle manufacturer and retailer on a breach of warranty and product liability claim.”

  1. Karly B says:

    I believe the trial judge got it right. The fact that the plaintiff didn’t specify his injuries right after they supposibly occurred and that he waited 3 years to bring the case to court is a little fishy. He obviously was just trying to get some easy money. I thought is was funny that both experts for the case completely shot down the plaintiffs testimony of what happened when he flipped. If something had fallen off the way he claimed the bike wouldn’t have stopped causing him to flip because the breaks wouldn’t have been able to stop the bike at all.

    Like

  2. Jason k says:

    I do not feel there is enough evidence from the defendant to prove his claim. The judge made the right decision. Reads like there is more evidence against the defendant’s claim, stating the brake would have done the opposite and just fell off. Bigger companies like Cannondale usually test their products thoroughly, for safety reasons, before putting a product on the shelves. This is a way for them to market their product.

    Like

  3. Jim Moss says:

    You can always tell when school starts. My page hits go through the roof again.

    Like

  4. Jim Moss says:

    1. What class is this?
    2. Don’t get hung up on the time frame. It could be the attorney’s fault for taking that long to file the case. The attorney could be busy and just got pushed up against the statute of limitations. It might have been difficult to find an expert to help decided if the case was any good.
    A major issue maybe the plaintiff decided to sue when the medical bills became a problem. So figure the hospital bills took a year to get sent to collections. Then a year to investigate, etc. Time flies when you practice law.
    You never file a case immediately because you need to know the extent of the plaintiff’s injuries. Some medical bills may only show up years later like physical therapy. Once out of the hospital you may have PT for a year and the total of that bill takes a while to determine.
    3. Why do you think plaintiff’s lawyers advertise late at night? A because it’s cheaper and B bored people who can’t work stay up late watching TV.
    4. “After money” is always an interesting term when applied to litigation. If the plaintiff after money thinking he/she should hit the lottery or after money to pay medical bills and not lose his house because he was off work with no insurance?
    5. You should go back and research the Arizona McDonalds case and see what the real facts are rather than what the urban myth says. You may not believe that that lady’s case was so far out there. Besides she got less than $600,000 when it was all said and done.

    Like

    • Andrea r says:

      This class is Risk Management in Recreation and Leisure, and we’re Missouri State University students. Thank you so much for keeping this blog up. It’s nice to read something other than a textbook that’s applicable to our career choice.

      Like

  5. Rodney kellyb says:

    If it was my decision I would say the decision was correct. If your front brakes mess up the bike will not cause you to flip over. I think that he should b responsible for all of his damages especially because he waited so long to tell anyone about it.

    Like

  6. Dillon says:

    This is quite comical. It reminds of a lady who tried to sue mcdonalds because her coffee was too hot. That’s just ridiculous. However, such cases may motivate others to sue and try to get money. Cycling is a risky sport and those who choose to do it need to realized they can’t sue because they gets her. Their claims will be very difficult to validate. Check your bike before riding, if you don’t know what your doing see an expert. If something never feels right, don’t ride.

    Like

  7. Shelby Strang says:

    The plaintiff is not making a strong case, especially because it is three years later after the incident. This just makes it seem like he is just in it for the money, because he could not have a serious injury if it was three years later. I believe that the biggest problem in the plantiffs case is that he did not have causation or proof of an injury. Because it was a simple negligence case,and the plaintiff waited too long to file a claim, I agree with the manufacturer. This just goes to show that a lot of the time people just file a lawsuit for money and not for justifiable reasons.

    Like

  8. Angel says:

    Obert 415

    Again I think that th case is pointless. He was using th bike at his own risk, and the defendant makes a good point that if the plaintiff said the product failed the way it did, his reaction would not be flying over the handlebars. Also, it doesn’t say in the report what his injuries were or proved if he had injuries.

    Like

  9. Liz REC 415 says:

    I think that the Plantiff was ignorant in filing a claim. There wasn’t anything wrong with the bike when he got it, so whose to say that it was the manufacturers fault. The Plantiff could have done something to the bicycle not know or he even could have know and tried to get money out of this case anyway. He didn’t get anywhere with this case so it was a waste of his time.

    Like

  10. Brian Rec415 says:

    I think the ruling in this case was correct. In this case I think he shouldn’t have gotten an appeal. This guy was obviously looking for money. If it was a bigger deal he should have filed it sooner rather than right before the statute of limitations was up. The court should recognize these more often and dismiss them so they don’t waste time.

    Like

  11. Howard Scarborough says:

    Maybe if the plantiff would of brought it up earlier he might of had of a case. It makes since on what the expert said because he would not of flipped over the bike because the bike wouldn’t of been able to stop. But you kind of figured out the intentions of the plantiff because they waited so long to make a case for it.

    Like

  12. Williams says:

    Yes I believe the case was a waste of the courts time. The customer obvouisly was trying to get some money out of the deal and had no chance at getting it. The bike manufacture knew the specifics of their bike and knew the things that would happen if something on the bike was to malfunction. The customer could not even clearly state his injuries or even how he got them. This was clearly just for the money.

    Like

  13. Jerry M says:

    I feel the the plaintiff in this case was just after money.From my point of view that the plaintiff waste his time during this case they brought in two people to look at the bike to show his theory was wrong he was careless with the bike and that’s why he lost this case

    Like

  14. Andrea r says:

    Seems that this blog hits the nail on the head. This is just one of many examples of frivolous lawsuits, which is what the legal system claims to be against. As Americans we abuse our judicial system, twisting it to please our own selfishness. Too many people play with people’s livelihoods because the law allows for them to do so. Thank goodness the plaintiff in this case failed in his attempt.

    Like

  15. Suzanne Koehler says:

    I agree that the plaintiff failed in this case because he didnt have causation. He could not prove that the injuries he sustained was due to the “failure” of the bike because he has no specifics as to what failed. Also he claimed that something on the brakes came loose and caused the brakes to lock up and him falling off. The expert witnesses on BOTH sides of the case (plaintiff’s and defendant’s) said that if that were the case then it would have done the opposite of lock up. So basically his guy just says that his bike failed without a specific explanation as to how it failed and then his own witness’s statement goes against what he said. I think this guy was just looking to get some money from the manufacturer is all.

    Like

  16. Brittany rec 415 says:

    I do agree that the plaintiff was in the wrong during the whole case and should of dropped it early on. His accident was not caused by a malfunction on the bike. If this would have been true he not only would have had proof of the defective product but also would of filed sooner. He did not file until after the accident and the purchase. After he made the original purchase he would have recognized the problem and filed then.

    Like

  17. Jacob King says:

    The last few lines of this summed up my conclusion. This seemed like negligence on the riders part. It’s an assumed risk that you might have an injury while riding a bike. There’s was no definitive proof that the handle bars being defective cause the accident. Just because your hurt and have a messed up bike doesn’t automatically make give you a case, especially when evidence is missing. He also likely didn’t help his case by saying he thought about filing a law suit only after watching a commercial for a lawyer.

    Like

  18. Joshua w says:

    It seems to me that this guy was just trying to get money out of this. Look at the facts, the breaks tightened and caused the wheel to stop…the breaks would have fallen off. Also why would he wait so long to file a lawsuit? Because he knew he didn’t have a case. It was his own fault that the bike broke.

    Like

  19. Emily c says:

    I agree that the pontiffs claims were false. After reading the evidence from not only one, but two experts saying that if the brakes failed it wouldn’t have stopped the biking, causing the Plantiff to be thrown from it, but it would have done the opposite. It is easy to see that the Plantiff just filled this case to make money. It is a good example of how in negligence that the breach of duty and causation were not able to be proved in correlation to the injury.

    Like

  20. Kara says:

    I think that if the plaintiff was really injured, he would have pursued this case immediately after it happened. I question him waiting so long in order to pursue it. If one is injured, then nothing would hold him back in fighting the case if the brakes had really failed. Since he waited so long and there was no physical proof of the brakes failing, I would have to agree with the court’s decision.

    Like

  21. Shelby Thompson says:

    I agree with the decision made by the trial court. The plaintiff discredited himself on trial by mentioning the relevance of the television program. He should have better prepared himself for the court proceedings. He made himself look amateur and basically did the defense’s job for them.

    Like

  22. Bry Snow says:

    I definitely do not agree with the claims of the plaintiff. The plaintiff had no proof or evidence to go along with his case, and waited a term of three years before even filing the case against the defendants. However, both defendants were able to provide experts that went completely against the story told by the plaintiff. I would have to agree that the plaintiff made very “bogus” claims and dismissing his case was the right thing to do.

    Like

  23. Keith Pickens says:

    In this article I think the plantiff might have a good argument but I don’t think he should win this case because he waited so long to bring it up. Also I don’t think his argument matches exactly what happen to him with him losing his front break and flipping over the handle bars. If the brake was to pop off you wouldn’t be able to suddenly break and flip over the handle bars. It’s clear the plantiff was just looking for money out of the lawsuit. Defendant was correct to stand by what they are saying.

    Like

  24. Brett B. says:

    first off, the plaintiff is an idiot. He is the one that destroys the bike. There is no way that the court can give him that appeal when he destroyed the bike before even thinking about suing. Second, when your own expert states that what was faulty would do the exact opposite of what happened, it destroys the case. I am actually surprised the plaintiff was actually able to get a lawyer to follow through with this once all of this came to light.

    Like

  25. Brandon Stringer says:

    I agree with the defendant in this case. First off, if it takes the defendant three years to file a lawsuit, it must have been filed out of necessity. Next, with the way that the plaintiff described the accident, modifications must have been made or the plaintiff was not accurate in the way he described the accident. This also leads back to why there’s no evidence left to defend the claim of the plaintiff. Without this necessary proof, the defendant is not at fault.

    Like

  26. Shelby Thompson says:

    I would have to agree with the decision made by the trial judge. The complaintant needs to be held fully responsible for his own chosen actions. He was aware of the apparent dangers that come along with mountain bike riding and he acted irresponsibly. He can not hold the defendant liable for his misjudgements.

    Like


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