Harley-Davidson Faces Oklahoma Trial Over Catastrophic Motorcycle Accident
Thousands of motorcycle accidents lead to injuries each year.
While many motorcycle accidents are result of operator error or the negligence of other motorists on the road; there are also situations where the motorcycle itself is to blame. Motorcycles are complex machines. If there is any defect in their manufacture, design, or maintenance, the motorcyclist may not be aware of any problem until it is too late.
Judge Rules Victim’s Expert Qualified to Testify
On September 25, 2018, a federal judge in Oklahoma found that a motorcyclist seriously injured in an accident four years earlier could proceed with his products liability and negligence lawsuit against Harley-Davidson, the manufacturer of his bike. The plaintiff, Manford Thompson, was riding his Harley down a highway in Arkansas and about to make a right-hand turn when the bike “started shaking violently,” leaving Thompson unable to steer.
The motorcycle subsequently crashed into a concrete bridge, throwing Thompson from the motorcycle.
As a result of his injuries, Thompson lost one of his legs. In support of his claims that Harley-Davidson’s negligence led to his defective motorcycle, Thompson presented an expert witness. The expert examined the bike and concluded the steering head bearing adjustment was “too loose,” which was the “most probable cause” of Thompson losing the ability to steer the motorcycle just before the accident.
Harley-Davidson moved to exclude the expert’s testimony.
The company asked for summary judgment. But U.S. District Judge David L. Russell denied both motions. Judge Russell said the expert’s testimony was “reliable” under federal court rules. While his conclusions may be “incorrect” or fail to persuade at trial, that was ultimately a decision for a jury to make.
Given the expert’s testimony was admissible, Judge Russell said there was no grounds for awarding Harley-Davidson summary judgment. The lawsuit therefore remains pending before Judge Russell. Another defendant, the company that sold Thompson the Harley, was recently dismissed from the case with Thompson’s agreement.
The Importance of Working with a Lawyer in a Products Liability Case
Oklahoma City personal injury lawyer Phillip P. Owens II noted cases like this one illustrate the challenges faced by accident victims in product liability cases. “There’s a big difference between proving a negligent driver caused an accident and showing a large manufacturer produced a defective vehicle. Judges and juries require expert testimony that is carefully vetted to ensure its reliability and accuracy.
This is why it is crucial for any accident victim to speak with a qualified personal injury lawyer before moving forward with a product liability claim.”