4 January 2016

Harry v Bike Republic

Harry, a keen commuting cyclist bought a “Flying Machine Base Urban Model RD2” from the defendant’s shop.  The bike has a Gates carbon belt drive with an 8 speed internal hub.  The belt engages with an alloy rear sprocket and the inner teeth of the sprocket, where it sits on the hub, suffered shearing/wear causing it to slip as he set off from a standing start.  This happened on two occasions before the saw the reason his right leg gave way as he attempted to set off from traffic lights. 

Harry had reported the problem to the bike shop and in fairness to them, they privately admitted that other customers had reported similar problems and the manufacturers had reverted to the use of steel sprockets.  Harry recovered the damaged sprocket from the shop, which was sensible, as any expert would need to examine it to provide an opinion on the cause of the defect / failure.

In law, the sprocket was defective under the EU Product Liability Directive and the Consumer Protection Act 1987.  Any expert evidence needed to prove this defect was likely to be expensive.  Manufacturers don’t like admitting defects in materials or construction and will often go to great lengths to allege customer misuse. 

In this case the shop’s insurers admitted liability early on and expert liability evidence was not needed.  Harry had suffered tendon/ligament damage to his knee and he had organised sports rehabilitation physiotherapy himself for which he had paid.  We obtained a report from an orthopaedic doctor with an interest in knee problems. His report identified the likely length of time the knee had been affected by the injury. (Harry had since resumed cycling).

The shop’s insurers made an offer of £4,500 to compensate him for the injury, the medical expenses he had incurred and his other out of pocket losses (the shop had paid for repairs to the cycle). 

The insurers also paid the recoverable costs Harry incurred.  The lesson of this case is that where a product is alleged to be defective, retain the product until it can be examined by an expert appointed by your solicitor. If the item is released to the defendant, it may be sent off for destructive testing thus depriving you of the evidence you need to prove the case.

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