A Louisiana man logged onto eBay. To save some money, he bought a used racing bicycle. While riding this bike through his neighborhood, he noticed an unlevel section of the roadway and attempted a “bunny hop” over the gap in the pavement. The front wheel disconnected when he landed. The cyclist lost control and flipped over the handlebars, sustaining serious injuries. He later filed suit against Specialized, the manufacturer of the bicycle, under the Louisiana Products Liability Act (“LPLA”). See Delahoussaye v. Boelter, — So.3d—, 2019-0026 (La. App. 1 Cir. 11/15/19).
The evidence in Delahoussaye showed that the bike was missing its “secondary retention device,” which keeps the wheel from disengaging if the “quick release” on clamp on the front fork is not engaged properly. Also, no warnings were found on the bike. Based upon this evidence, the cyclist claimed Specialized should be liable because the bike was defective; unreasonably dangerous in its design, construction, and manufacture; and inadequate in its instructions and warnings.
To recover from a manufacturer under the LPLA, a plaintiff must show that the product (here, the bike) was unreasonably dangerous at the time it left the manufacturer’s control. Photographs of the bike showed a light, silver spot on the bike where the secondary retention device had been located. This confirmed that the secondary retention device was removed after it originally was manufactured. Evidence also showed that warning stickers originally on the bike had been removed.
These changes were made after Specialized lost control of the bike. Because the bike was not defective when the product left Specialized’s control, Specialized, as the bike’s manufacturer, could not be liable under the LPLA for injuries the plaintiff sustained when he lost control of the bike. In short, this case came down to a matter of control.
Reynolds LeBlanc is a partner at Keogh Cox. His practice areas include commercial litigation, personal injury claims, appeals, and other matters. Reynolds is a former teacher, who in his free time plays music and perpetually talks himself into training for his next marathon.