Archive for the ‘Bicycling’ Category

Beyond Control – Woman Injured on Costa Rican Bicycle Tour; Claims Survive Motion to Dismiss (CO)

October 15, 2015

Steinfeld v. EmPG International, LLC (Colorado)
(trial court disposition)

A woman fell off her bicycle during a bicycle your vacation in Costa Rica.  She and her husband filed a lawsuit against the bicycle tour company.  The lawsuit was filed in Pennsylvania where the plaintiffs resided, but the Pennsylvania District Court held that is lacked personal jurisdiction over the defendant tour company that was based in Colorado.  The defendant filed a motion to dismiss based in large part on the assumption of risk and waiver of liability forms (“Releases”) signed by the plaintiffs prior to their participation in the tour.  However, the Colorado District Court applied Colorado law (as having the “most significant relationship” to claims), denied the motion, and allowed the case to proceed to discovery, finding that the Releases did not bar all of the plaintiffs claims.  The Court explained:

“A waiver implicitly or explicitly is grounded on warranties of fitness, and assumption of risk can only take place when the risk is inherent and clearly foreseeable.  The Complaint in this case abounds with allegations of misrepresentations and abandonment of good faith attempts to fulfill the obligations of the contract.”

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Cleanup in Aisle 5 – Child Injured on Bicycle Inside Wal-Mart; Store Not Liable (MS)

July 23, 2015

Wilson ex rel. Purser v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (Mississippi)

A step-father and his two minor boys visited a Wal-Mart store in Batesville, Mississippi looking to purchase a basketball.  While the step-father was paying for the basketball, the two boys started looking at bicycles.  Both boys got on bicycles that had been on the bicycle racks and began riding up and down the nearby aisles.  During the ride, one of the boys was riding fast and could not figure out how to stop.  He tried to brake using the pedals, but the bike only had handbrakes.  The boy ran into a wall and cut his leg on a shelf.  “The employee assigned to the department was outside at the time of the accident, and no signs were posted prohibiting the use of the bicycles or otherwise warning of any danger.”

The boys’ mother filed a lawsuit on behalf of her injured child, contending that Wal-Mart was negligent by failing to keep the premises reasonably safe and failing to warn of the danger posed by the bikes.  Wal-Mart filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that the plaintiff could not show the existence of a dangerous condition.  The trial court granted the defendant’s motion, and the plaintiff filed a motion to reconsider.  Plaintiff’s motion was denied, and an appeal was filed.

On appeal, plaintiff argued that “whether an unlocked or readily available bicycle on the sales floor constituted a dangerous condition was a genuine issue of material fact that should have been submitted to a jury.”  However, the Court disagreed, affirming the trial court decision.

Can’t Catch a “Brake” – Woman Injured on Foreign Bicycle Tour Forced to Litigate Away from Home (PA)

April 20, 2015

Steinfeld v. EMPG International (Pennsylvania)

The Pennsylvania plaintiffs were injured during a trip to Costa Rica.  Prior to leaving for Costa Rica, the plaintiffs visited the website of defendant EMPG International, LLC (a Colorado limited liability company) and consummated an online transaction to rent bicycles and sign up for a bicycle tour while in Costa Rica.  The bicycle equipment was allegedly not in the condition originally promised by the defendant, and one of the plaintiffs was injured during the tour due to faulty brakes on the bicycle.  The plaintiffs filed a federal lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, alleging negligence, negligent hiring and retention, vicarious liability, joint enterprise, agency, breach of contract, violation of the Pennsylvania Consumer Protection Law, fraud, negligent misrepresentation, and loss of consortium.

The defendant filed a motion to dismiss the action based on a lack of personal jurisdiction and a failure to state a claim under which relief could be granted.  Following a pretrial conference, the Court entered an order permitting the parties to conduct discovery regarding jurisdiction, and the court required the parties to submit a joint stipulation of facts with respect to jurisdiction so that it could rule on the defendant’s motion to dismiss.  After reviewing the evidence and stipulated facts, the Court found that the “plaintiffs’ cause of action did not arise out of or relate to the company’s contacts with Pennsylvania.”  However, because the defendant was subject to general personal jurisdiction in Colorado, the Court transferred the case to the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado.

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No Free License to Mow Down Bikers

August 28, 2010

Klein v. U.S. (California)
(California Supreme Court rules that the liability shield of California’s recreational use statute did not extend to acts of vehicular negligence.)

The plaintiff was riding a bicycle for recreation on a two-lane paved road in Angeles National Forest in Southern California when he was struck head-on by an automobile driven by a part-time volunteer working for the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. The court ruled that California Civil Code Section 846, which provides that a landowner “owes no duty of care to keep the premises safe for entry or use by others for any recreational purpose” did not extend to acts of vehicular negligence. The Court based its decisions on the plain language of the statute noting that the statutory phrase “keep the premises safe” related to property-based duties underlying premises liability, not including vehicular negligence.

NOTE: The Court’s conclusion was logical based upon the clearly defined duties related to premises liability.

Tour de Désastre

July 5, 2007

Rivera v. Glen Oaks Village Owner’s, Inc. (New York)
(Off Road Bicyclist Crashes Into Hole in Trail; Recreational Use Statute Immunized Landowner; Assumption of the Risk Also a Viable Defense)

The plaintiff and two friends were riding their bikes on a roadway. They turned off the road and onto a dirt trail located in a two-acre wooded area, which was part of a large residential cooperative community. The trail was approximately 500 feet long and 10 feet wide, and the plaintiff described it as “bumpy.” After traveling about 40 feet on the trail, the plaintiff came upon a hole in the ground, approximately two feet wide and three feet deep. Unable to avoid the hole, the front wheel of the plaintiff’s bicycle went into the hole, causing him to be thrown over the bicycle’s handlebars and into the hole. Plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the landowner based upon the alleged dangerous condition on the premises. The defendant filed a motion for summary judgment based upon New York’s “recreational use statute.” The motion was denied, and the defendant appealed.

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Collision Course

June 20, 2007

Milne v. USA Cycling, Inc. (Utah)
(Mountain Bike Racer Collides with Truck During “Open Course” Race; Waiver and Release Precludes Liability for Ordinary Negligence; Gross Negligence Not Proven)

A participant in a mountain bike race suffered fatal injuries as a result of a collision with a truck. The defendants organized, promoted, and conducted the “open course” race in which the participants shared the race course with regular vehicle traffic. Decedent’s heirs filed suit claiming both ordinary negligence and gross negligence.

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