June 21, 2007

New Jersey Passes Law Banning Quick-Release Hubs

Following up on an earlier post, quick-release hubs on the front wheels of bicycles can be a serious safety hazard. If the hubs are not properly tightened by the bike retailer, or are not properly designed by the bicycle manufacturer with safety devices to prevent sudden disengagement, or if neither the retailer nor manufacturer properly warns the user of how to properly check the hub, the front wheel can fall off.

Bicyclists who have had the front wheel come off can fall forward or over the front handlebars, suffering severe head and spine injuries, and fractures. The bicycle retailer and manufacturer can be liable for negligence when such injuries occur.

The New Jersey State Assembly just passed a bill that would prohibit the sale of bikes equiped with quick-release wheels to children. The bill cites over 100 accidents related to quick-release hubs. The bill would require adult bikes with the quick-release wheels to have a secondary safety mechanism to prevent the front wheel from falling off.

The secondary safety mechanism would activate automatically if the pin intended to hold the wheel failed, according to the bill.

The intent, Moriarty said, is to increase bike safety and prevent children from sustaining life-altering injuries after falling off bikes with quick-release wheels.

"There is safer technology out there and I think we should use it to prevent accidents to children as well as adults," Moriarty said. "As we find safer technology for cars, we put it in there. If it were up to some car companies, we still wouldn't have seat belts or airbags."

From CourierPostOnline.com, Meg Huelsman, "Bicycle Bill Confuses Owners."

Also, SHOK (Stop Hurting Our Kids) is a group of parents from across America who have started a website speaking out against Wal-Mart's sales of children's bicycles with quick-release hubs. The site has testimonials from parents whose children were severely injured on bicycles with quick-release hubs where the front wheel came off of the bike.

The site lists bicycle models, sold by Wal-Mart, that the group believes to be dangerous and involved in serious injuries.

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June 11, 2007

Add Robert Bork to the List of Tort Reform Hypocrites

As first noted in the ACSBlog of the American Constitution Society, Judge Robert Bork, a prominent and unabashed judicial conservative whose nomination to the Supreme Court was rejected by the Senate, is seeking $1,000,000 in compensatory damages, plus punitive damages, in a personal injury lawsuit against the Yale Club of New York City. Judge Bork was scheduled to give a speech at the club, but he fell when mounting the stage, allegedly injuring his head and left leg. Judge Bork's complaint alleges that the Yale Club is liable for $1,000,000 in damages, including damages for pain and suffering, plus punitive damages, because the defendant "wantonly, willfully, and recklessly" failed to provide staging which he could climb safely.

Judge Bork has been a leading proponent of tort reform--laws restricting the right of injured persons from obtaining full and fair compensation for their injuries from juries. The ACSBlog points out that in a 2002 article published in the Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy--the official journal of the Federalist Society--Bork argued that frivolous claims and excessive punitive damage awards have caused the Constitution to evolve into a document which would allow Congress to enact tort reforms that would have been unconstitutional at the framing:

"State tort law today is different in kind from the state tort law known to the generation of the Framers. The present tort system poses dangers to interstate commerce not unlike those faced under the Articles of Confederation. Even if Congress would not, in 1789, have had the power to displace state tort law, the nature of the problem has changed so dramatically as to bring the problem within the scope of the power granted to Congress. Accordingly, proposals, such as placing limits or caps on punitive damages, or eliminating joint or strict liability, which may once have been clearly understood as beyond Congress's power, may now be constitutionally appropriate."

Hurley McKenna & Mertz actively oppposes tort reform legislation in Illinois and at the federal level. Such laws are unconstitutional in that they prevent fair acess to a trial by jury of all issues in a case. Federal laws which limit state tort laws also violate the United States Constitution in that they violate states' rights, no matters what cynics and hypocrites like Judge Bork may say.

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June 1, 2007

Dangers of Mountain Bike Quick-Release Hubs Revealed

Recently there have been several cases of serious injury caused when quick-release hubs have become disengaged from the front fork of mountain bikes. This is a phenomenon well-known to bike retailers and manufacturers, who can become liable for their negligence if they improperly repair, build, design or manufacture the bicycle. For example, as far back as 1996, a California jury awarded a 26-year-old plaintiff $3.4 million for severe head injuries caused when the front wheel came off of the man’s bike during a ride.

The case, described in an article by Michael Dougan of the Examiner, involved the front wheel of the plaintiff’s Mongoose bicycle, which had come loose during a two-hour bike ride in 1993. The wheel came off because the quick-release device designed to secure the wheel to the front fork did not have the safety devices that have been incorporated into many bicycles since 1989.

“A quick release consists of a long skewer that passes through the wheel's axle. One end is fitted with a nut and the other with a short lever that must be closed to tighten the wheel to a bicycle's fork or frame. The popular device, used in place of nuts and bolts, allows cyclists to remove and reinstall a wheel quickly without a wrench.

Safety enhancements adopted for quick-release mechanisms include special washers or a small lip on the fork that prevents wheels from falling off if the quick-release is disengaged, said a spokesman for the Baltimore-based League of American Bicyclists.”

Defense attorneys for Merida Industries, the Taiwanese company that assembled the plaintiff’s Mongoose bicycle, argued that the safety devices were not necessary if the quick-release mechanism was properly tightened.

During the trial, attorneys for the plaintiff showed jurors a chart listing 15 other lawsuits against Mongoose and Merida. The plaintiff’s attorneys argued that these cases highlighted the dangers of quick-release hubs, which allow a bike's front wheel to be removed for easy transportation and storage.

World-famous bicycle racer John Howard also testified at the trial. Mr. Howard apparently testified that he had once been injured when his quick-release mechanism failed and the front wheel popped off his bike.

The plaintiff now has seizures because of the accident. He also suffers from the onset of a rare disorder, caused by the incident, which prevents him from taking anti-seizure medication.

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