Bike’s front fork fractures suddenly, throwing rider

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Case in Point

September 10, 2013

Bike’s front fork fractures suddenly, throwing rider 

The plaintiff sued the bike’s manufacturer, claiming that the fork contained a manufacturing defect that left it unable to withstand the normal forces of use. Suit also alleged the defendant failed to warn of the danger. The jury awarded $800,000. Miguelez v. Trek Corp.

Antonio Miguelez, 33, was riding a Klein Reve bike on the road when the front fork fractured suddenly, causing the wheel to detach. He was thrown from the bike and landed on his face and right arm.

Miguelez suffered multiple facial lacerations, including a laceration to his chin requiring 10 sutures. He also suffered pain in his jaw and right shoulder, and imaging revealed bilateral temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder and right shoulder impingement with rotator cuff tendinopathy. He underwent arthroscopic surgeries to both sides of his jaw and his shoulder, followed by physical therapy for the shoulder injury. His past medical expenses totaled about $100,000, and his future medical expenses for additional TMJ surgeries are estimated at about $300,000. He continues to suffer pain on both sides of his jaw and residual weakness in his shoulder. A police officer who had participated in the force’s bike patrol, he has been unable to resume biking.

Miguelez sued Trek Corp., the manufacturer of the bike, alleging that the fork contained a manufacturing defect. Specifically, he contended that the carbon fiber material used for the fork blades contained air pockets or voids that affected the material’s strength, leaving the forks unable to withstand the normal forces of use. Miguelez also alleged that the defendant failed to warn of the danger of the fork fracturing.

The plaintiff did not claim lost earnings.

The defense denied that the fork contained a manufacturing defect and argued that the incident occurred when a foreign object became lodged in the fork blades and wheel spokes, causing the fork to fracture.

The plaintiff countered that if the manufacturer was aware that this could occur, it should have warned of the danger.

The jury deadlocked on whether Trek placed the fork blades on the market with a defect, but it found for the plaintiff on the warning claim. The jury awarded $800,000, including $400,000 for past and future medical expenses and $400,000 for past and future pain and suffering. A defense motion for a new trial is pending.

Citation: Miguelez v. Trek Corp., No. 2007-1654-CA-01 (Fla., Miami-Dade Co. Cir. May 23, 2013).

Plaintiff counsel: Scott L. Henratty and Stephen L. Malove, both of Fort Lauderdale.

Plaintiff expert: Scott Beckwith, composite materials, Taylorsville, Utah.

Defense experts: Gerald Bretting, accident reconstruction, El Segundo, Calif.; and Stephen Tsai, composite materials, Palo Alto, Calif.


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