Bicycle Retailer and Industry News (BRAIN) recently reported on the partial settlement of a case involving US-based e-bike maker Rad Power. The case centres around a fatal accident that took place on January 31, 2021, when 12-year-old Molly Steinsapir was riding on the back of a RadRunner e-bike ridden by her 11-year-old friend, the daughter of Lyle and Melanie Green. During the accident Molly suffered fatal brain injuries whilst her friend suffered only minor injuries.
Molly's parents, the Steinsapirs, subsequently filed a wrongful death lawsuit against both Rad Power and helmet-maker Giro Sport Design, as Molly was apparently wearing one of their helmets during the accident. The lawsuit alleged that Rad Power markets its e-bikes to children without adequate warnings and also that design defects on the RadRunner e-bike in question contributed to the accident.
The design defects quoted in the Steinsapirs' lawsuit are related to the front fork design. The lawsuit says the front wheel was wobbling during a fast descent - and it specifically alleges that using disc brakes in conjunction with quick-release skewers means the skewers can loosen during hard braking and cause the wheel to wobble and shake.
"Molly's friend was likely unable to stop the bike and lost control of the bike, because her hard pull on the front brake caused the wheel's quick release mechanism to unthread, loosening the wheel," BRAIN quotes the lawsuit as saying.
The lawsuit also alleges that the RadRunner's front fork trail number was unusually low for road use and made the bike unstable at high speeds. Trail is the horizontal distance between where the front tyre touches the ground and where the steering axis intersects the ground in front of that.
The case became rather more complicated in September last year when Rad Power named the Greens (the rider's parents) as defendants in a cross-complaint, essentially seeking that the Greens share at least some of the liability for the accident should Rad Power lose the original suit brought by the Steinsapirs.
In the latest development in the case, a Los Angeles judge has approved a $1.5 million settlement between both sets of parents. Rad Power Bikes, opposed the settlement and has filed a cross-complaint against the parents of the surviving rider.
Bell Sports (acting with regard to the claim over the Giro helmet) also denies liability in the case, but "approved the settlement between the Greens and the Steinsapirs, accepting the offer to be held harmless for economic damages over any assigned percentage of fault," according to BRAIN.
BRAIN concludes on a case that has become increasingly legally complex, involving claim and counter claim and multiple parties: "The Steinsapirs' economic damages were nearly $800,000 in medical costs. The Steinsapirs have offered Rad Power an opportunity to settle the product liability claim in accordance with its $7 million insurance policy limit. If the sides don't reach a settlement a trial is scheduled for Oct. 16, 2023."
As ebiketips reported recently, Rad Power - certainly one the biggest e-bike manufacturers in the US, if not the biggest - have been going through turbulent times recently, with job cuts and price rises hitting the news as well as this case. They also have an interesting new product launch in the form of an electric trike.