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$800,000 Failure-to-Warn Verdict in Favor of Florida Bicyclist Reversed on Appeal – Trek Bicycle Corporation v. Miguelez

bikeDefective products are everywhere. It seems like there is a new recall announcement concerning a car, truck, or SUV every week. It’s enough to make one consider alternative transportation. Unfortunately, those other forms of transportation – particularly bicycles with carbon fiber forks – may not be safe either.

In the case of Trek Bicycle Corporation v. Miguelez, the plaintiff was a man who had an accident on the Rickenbacker causeway while riding his newly purchased Trek road bike on the shoulder of the road. According to the plaintiff, the bike stopped abruptly, causing him to fall and hurt his face, jaw, and shoulder. After looking at the bike, it was the plaintiff’s belief that an object had ended up caught in the rotating spokes of the front wheel, then hit the front carbon fiber forks’ back sides; this caused the wheel to stop rotating. The object then hit the front forks, cracking them and causing them to buckle and the bike to collapse.

Proceedings in the Trial Court

The plaintiff sued both the manufacturer who made the bike and the retailer who sold him the bike, alleging defective design, defective manufacture, and failure to warn, all product liability claims. The trial court directed verdicts in the manufacturer and retailer’s favor on the issues of defective design and defective manufacture. The case was tried to a jury on the issue of failure to warn. The jury came back with a verdict against the manufacturer on the issue but did not return a verdict against the retailer. The Circuit Court of Miami-Dade County entered judgment upon the jury’s verdict of $800,000 on the negligent failure to warn claim.

The Issue on Appeal

Was the failure to have a warning on the bike concerning the carbon fiber’s potential to crack and possibly fail the proximate legal cause of the injuries sustained by the plaintiff?

The Appellate Court’s Decision

Concluding that the manufacturer’s failure to warn was not the proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injuries, the Third District Court of Appeal reversed the trial court’s order. According to the court, the plaintiff failed to meet his burden of proving that the manufacturer’s alleged failure to warn of the inherent characteristics of damaged carbon fiber was, as a matter of law, a proximate legal cause of his injuries. Accordingly, the trial court should have granted the manufacturer’s motion for a directed verdict.

Opining that road debris, not the manufacturer’s failure to warn that damaged carbon fiber could fail suddenly, was the proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injury, the court rejected the plaintiff’s testimony that he would not have purchased the bike in question (or, for that matter, any bicycle with carbon fiber forks) had he been warned of the potential of the carbon fiber to crack and possibly fail when damaged.

To Contact a South Florida Product Liability Lawyer

If you or a loved one has been hurt by a defective product, the law firm of Cohn & Smith is here to help. We handle a wide range of product liability lawsuits, including those arising from defective design, failure to warn, and negligent manufacturing. Call (954) 431-8100 for your free initial consultation. We accept cases throughout South Florida, including Pembroke Pines, North Dade County, and Fort Lauderdale. In most situations, we can accept your case on a contingency fee basis so you do not have to pay a retainer for attorney fees upfront.

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