A jury verdict against a bicycle manufacturer was overturned by Florida’s Third District Court of Appeal. The Court found that the manufacturer’s failure to place a warning label on its bikes regarding the potential failure of carbon fiber front forks was not the proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injuries. Thus, the trial court should have granted the defendant’s motion for directed verdict. The Third District remanded the case with instructions to enter judgment for the defendant.
The plaintiff was riding along the side of the road on bicycle manufactured by the defendant when an object caught in the spokes of the front wheel. The object hit the bike’s carbon fiber forks, which buckled, throwing the plaintiff from the bike. He sustained physical injuries to his face, jaw, and shoulders. After a trial, the jury returned an $800,0000 verdict for the plaintiff.
Florida law allows those injured by a defective product to hold the product’s manufacturer liable for injuries the product caused. A product liability suit can allege either negligence or strict liability. There are four elements of a case that alleges a manufacturer’s negligence:
- The plaintiff suffered some injury;
- The product was defective;
- The product’s defect was the proximate cause of the injury; and
- The plaintiff was using the product as intended or in a manner foreseeable to the manufacturer.
A product can be defective in several ways, one of which is a failure to provide an adequate warning about the dangers associated with using the product. This is often shortened to a “failure to warn.”
The issue before the Third District was whether the plaintiff proved the third element above. Or, was the bicycle manufacturer’s failure to warn the proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injuries? The plaintiff argued that it was the proximate cause of the injuries because he would not have purchased a bike with carbon fiber forks had a warning about their fragility been placed on the bicycle. The court disagreed.
Proximate cause is a question of foreseeability and substantiveness. One component of this is whether the injury would have occurred absent the defendant’s behavior. The Court noted that an object stuck in the spokes of a bicycle that stops the rotation of the front tire will usually throw the rider from the bike, regardless of the material from which the front forks are constructed. According to the court, debris caught in the bicycle’s front wheel was the proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injuries, not the bicycle manufacturer’s failure to warn.
Proving a negligent failure to warn case against a product’s manufacturer is a complex undertaking. The Southwest Florida product liability attorneys of Lusk, Drasites & Tolisano have significant experience litigating personal injury cases for injured Floridians in Cape Coral, Naples, and throughout the region. If you were injured by a defective or dangerous product, we may be able to help. Call (800) 283-7442 to schedule a free case evaluation today.