Appleabaum v. Target Corp. – Defective Bicycle Lawsuit Grinds to a Halt
Gregg Hollander | August 14, 2016 | Bicycle Accidents
Most people when they hear the words “cycling accident” automatically think of a collision with a car. It’s true that a significant portion of serious bicycle accident injuries are the result of bike run-ins with motor vehicles. However, most bicycling accidents overall are solo crashes.
In some cases, bicycle accidents – whether solo or involving motor vehicles – are the result of a defective bicycle. Often, these defects are some type of mechanical failure of one of the bike’s components.
Anytime a product is defective and that defect causes an injury or loss, all those engaged in the business of designing, manufacturing and supplying that product to the public for use can be held liable for that injury. That means an injured person can pursue action against the designer of the bike, the company that assembled it, the wholesaler, the distributor and the retailer.
The sheer number of potential defendants makes it more likely plaintiff will have adequate means to cover his or her damages. However, that does not mean recovery of damages will be easy. One has to prove the bicycle was defective and that this defect was the proximate cause of his or her injuries.
In the case of Applebaum v. Target Corp., plaintiff alleged a bike one which she crashed and suffered injuries had defective brakes after having been repaired by the defendant when it was returned by a previous customer. She said the bike was later resold to her, and she did not realize it had previously been owned or repaired.
According to court records, plaintiff first spotted the purple Schwinn bicycle that reminded her of her childhood bike while shopping in a Target store for something else. A few days later, she went to a different Target store and bought one just like it. On her very first ride on that bike, she suffered a fall. She fell off at the bottom of a hill and suffered injury to her shoulder.
When she sued, she alleged it was a defective bicycle that caused her bicycle accident injuries. Defendant, on the other hand, countered it was rider error.
A big issue in this case was whether the bicycle was purchased brand new or whether it was a used bike. According to plaintiff, when she first went to the second store to purchase the bike, the one she wanted was sold out. She was told by a staffer that one had been returned due to a brake problem and was being repaired. A few days later, plaintiff called and talked to a later-identified employee who allegedly told her the bike was “perfect, all fixed.” The employee later said he didn’t recall any mention of a repair, only a question about whether the bike was in stock, to which he answered in the affirmative. She bought the bike later that same day.
The bike was in the garage for a full spring before it was taken out for its first ride on the Fourth of July. Less than one-tenth of a mile into the ride, plaintiff fell. A passerby who came to help showed her that the rear brake had clamped down on the tire. That person released the brakes so the bike could be wheeled back to plaintiff’s vehicle.
A few days later, she returned the bike to the store, asserting she’d had an accident due to a brake problem. She alleges she left the bike with the same worker she’d spoken with when she bought the bike. He remembers her coming in, but says she left with the bike. In either case, no one has seen the bike since that day.
The incident was reported to the company’s examiner and the company reportedly found no report of a bike repair being made at that store.
Plaintiff’s lawsuit was filed against Target, as well as a company that builds and repairs bikes for target and that firm’s parent company. The latter two declined to participate in the action and the lower court set a default judgment of $50,000.
The case against Target went to trial and Target prevailed.
Plaintiff appealed, arguing the court made a mistake in limiting the adverse inference that could be made relating to Target’s spoliation of evidence and further that certain evidence was wrongly characterized as hearsay and the evidence didn’t support the verdict.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, though, affirmed. The court held that while plaintiff did present evidence contrary to the verdict, it was just that: Contrary evidence. “(Plaintiff) is entitled only to a fair jury, not one that believes whatever she says.”
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Applebaum v. Target Corp., Aug. 2, 2016, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
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$7.25 M Bicycle Accident Injury Lawsuit Settlement, July 31, 2016, Boca Raton Bicycle Accident Lawyer Blog