We all want our bikes to function at optimum condition at all times. Which is why we spend time and money in maintaining them. But what is the position if a component fails causing injury? A look at the case of Baker v KTM Sportmotorcycle UK Ltd shows how the law works.
Solicitor - Health & Injury
In November 2009 Mr Baker purchased a KTM Supermoto 990 from a dealer second hand. It had been manufactured in around March 2008. He was an experienced motorcyclist and owned 6 motorcycles. On 24 January 2010 he was riding his bike when suddenly the front brake seized. He was thrown off and suffered serious injuries. He sued the manufacturer, alleging that the accident was caused by a defect in the motorcycle, contrary to section 3(1) of the Consumer Protection Act, and / or their negligence.
An expert mechanical engineer for Mr Baker examined the bike and found the front wheel to be stiff, and markings on the disc suggestive of an imbalanced braking system. An expert from a laboratory found deposits on the brake disc assembly that the engineering expert considered to be indicative of galvanic corrosion, and not road salt causing corrosion. He further concluded that system did not appear to have sufficient protection from galvanic corrosion. KTM’s engineer expert examined the bike some 3 years later, finding no stiffness, an absence of corrosion and concluded that the brakes failed due to a failure in maintenance.
At the trial a lay witness appeared for Mr Baker who had experienced a similar incident with a KTM bike. KTM called a witness from the design department of Brembo, who had supplied the brake assembly.
The Consumer Protection Act provides that there is a defect if “the safety of the product is not such as persons generally are entitled to expect”. In determining that, all the circumstances are considered. In Mr Baker’s case, guidance was provided by an earlier case of Ide v ATB Sales Ltd, which concerned an injury to a mountain bike rider, and the issue in that case of whether the fracture to the handlebar occurred because the handlebar was defective or whether it fractured when the rider fell from his bike. In Ide, the Judge found that the handlebar was defective and had fractured instantaneously and, crucially, not as a result of the fall.
A Successful Outcome
At the trial the Judge found that that the cause of the seizing of the brakes was galvanic corrosion which had happened “as a result of a design defect combined with faulty construction or the use of inappropriate or faulty materials” which “was the probable cause of the brakes seizing.” Further, that the “defects in the braking system” meant that “the safety in the braking system” on the bike was “not such as persons generally are entitled to expect” they were defects within the Act and that they caused the accident and resulting injuries to Mr Baker. Mr Baker’s claim was successful.
This article was originally published in the December 2019 issue of South East Biker Magazine.
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