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Misrepresented Bicycle Causes Quadriplegia

A man’s fall from a misrepresented bicycle causes quadriplegia when it collapsed under him when he encountered conditions that should have been no problem for the type of bicycle advertised.

In 1989, the plaintiff, a navy retiree, purchased a bicycle from Montgomery Ward that was manufactured by Asahi Misrepresented Bicycle Causes Quadriplegia -- Altizer Law PCEnterprises Corp. It was advertised as an all-terrain bicycle.  He was riding this bicycle at the Virginia Mariner’s Museum. The terrain sloped down into a soft, muddy swale. The front wheel of the bicycle sank into the mud, causing the bicycle to lose speed. It also collapsed beneath the plaintiff because the frame became distorted. The bending of the frame occurred because it met the specifications of a “city cycle” and not a mountain bike or an all-terrain bike.

In the resulting fall, the plaintiff sustained a fracture dislocation of his cervical spine which caused complete quadriplegia.

The plaintiff’s lawsuit claimed that the bicycle was not adequately constructed for off-road use. Thus, Montgomery Ward falsely advertised the bicycle as a mountain bike. The suit claimed that Montgomery Ward had engaged Asahi Enterprises to manufacture a low-cost bicycle that looked like an all-terrain bicycle. Further, Montgomery Ward provided the specifications for the bike to Asahi.

Plaintiff claimed that the bicycle in question was a city cycle frame equipped with knobby tires and all-terrain bicycle decals. He claimed that Montgomery Ward advertising this bicycle as an all-terrain bicycle and the attached decals representing it as an all-terrain bicycle falsely represented the bicycle as an all-terrain bike suitable for off-road use.

This case was settled out of court, the financial award being $1,650,000 in 1993. In 2017 dollars, the award would have been $2,807,348.84. In light of the significant increases in health care and long-term care costs during the intervening 24 years, the financial award might have been higher is the case was resolved today. Punitive damages against Montgomery Ward and Asahi might also be higher today. We would also expect that both companies would be fined by the Federal Trade Commission for false advertising.

When making any purchase, it is important to compare product specifications and manufacturing standards, as well as price, with other competing products. When there is a significant difference in price or in the appearance of the product, it is wise to conduct further research before buying. This does not remove the responsibility of the manufacturer and the retailer to portray a product for what it is. It is also wise to research any product recalls for the item. Truth in advertising protects the public not merely from purchasing an inferior product, but from harm.

If you or a loved one has been harmed by a damaged or defective product, you may have grounds to file a products liability case. Call Altizer Law, P.C., for a free initial consultation to assess the merits of such a case. Should we determine legal action to be warranted, you may wish to put your case in the trusted advocacy of Bettina Altizer. In her 25 years of legal practice she has aggressively and relentlessly pursued justice and full compensation for her clients.