Chicago firefighter sues Harley-Davidson

Usually I would not comment on such tragic accidents, but here is a issue that concerns us all:

product liability versus  user responsibility

The wrecked Harley-Davidson sitting in a
Daley Center courtroom

The background: McMahon, 53, a longtime Chicago firefighter and motorcycle enthusiast is suing Harley-Davidson, claiming the company produced a faulty motorcycle that led to his 2004 crash on an Arizona interstate. A resident of Chicago’s Mount Greenwood neighbourhood, McMahon now requires a wheelchair and around-the-clock care.

In the ongoing trial, the lawyer pointed out that his clients Harley-Davidson “weaved and wobbled” before it crashed, and continued with the rather obvious statement that “a weaving and wobbling motorcycle is not a safe motorcycle.” The attorney continued: “They sold it knowing there’s a problem with it and knowing there’s a way to fix it.” Really? Even I know a bike can wobble, whatever make, and one can make it stop to wobble.

I admire firefighters for their job dedication and courage, and I feel sorry for McMahon, but this court case shows me some big problems, not with our Harley-Davidson’s, but our society.

Every bike has a tendency to wobble under some conditions, some more, some less, depending on speed, street condition, tyre pressure, to mention just some few factors, while a harmonic feedback is generated and increases in amplitude.

I had a bike that like to wobble, even do something called a “tank slapper”, a speed wobble so severe that the handlebars bang  against the sides of the fuel tank. It only did it under certain conditions, slowing down under no brake while riding free hand, and the experience was so bad that on this one bike, my hands never ever left the handlebars anymore.

Did you know gasoline is flammable?

Should this case go before court? I do not think so. My sympathy is with the rider, and his high medical costs, but it were his actions and his acceptance to drive a dangerous motorvehicle that ultimately lead to the accident.

Did you know gasoline can explode?

What I do not get is that it took 6 full years before this case went to court, the accident happened in 2004, now its 2010. The question arise: did McMahon run out of money, or did a underemployed lawyer convince him to try his luck in the courts, no win, no fee?

Do you understand the indicators?

I fear many of these product liability lawsuits, accepted through misunderstood political correctness, will mainly lead to more expensive products, but not necessarily better ones. Bike riding will remain as dangerous as before, even after a multi million dollar settlement may have to be paid. The millions in cash will ultimately not be paid by Harley-Davidson, but us, the Harley enthusiast.

Did you know poor visibility is dangerous?

I hope common sense will prevail, but as the legal system regularly produce such crazy judgements as the million dollar McDonalds hot coffee settlement, I am not very confident. And if you carefully read the owner manual of your Harley-Davidson, you will quickly see that it was written by lawyers, not bike riders. You can not find a single page without the warning of quite obvious dangers.

How stupid do they think I am?

But after the ruling in this case, I am sure a further warnings will be added to the owners manual: beware of the wobble and more importantly:

be prepared for death or serious injury


2 Responses to “Chicago firefighter sues Harley-Davidson”

  1. Lawyers for a Chicago firefighter who was paralyzed in a motorcycle wreck said Thursday that they settled their lawsuit with Harley-Davidson Inc. after a Daley Center jury was deadlocked.
    Lawyers for both sides declined to divulge the settlement terms because of a confidentiality agreement.

    I wonder how much Harley-Davidson paid to get rid of this irritation…

  2. I too believe that there has to be a line drawn on rider responsibility. I had an incident this summer with my 2001 Fatboy wherein I was riding and started wobbling and shaking. I tried the speeding up and realized it went away if I slowed down. I limped it back to home and later found out that the a few of the wire spokes in my wheel were loose. And I had just gotten new tires prior and took the bike for a 300+ mile run without a problem. So do I sue my mechanic? Nope. Silly to think so. I am responsible for checking out my own bike and remembering it is a motorcycle and to BE PREPARED FOR DEATH OR SERIOUS INUURY!

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