Miss. Customer Loses Appeal Of H-D Liability Case

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The Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld a decision releasing Harley-Davidson Motor Co. and Chunky River Harley-Davidson from liability related to a rider’s accident.

The decision, recorded Feb. 3, finds that the plaintiff, Donna Rutledge, failed to prove her accident was the result of a defect that later led to a recall.

Rutledge bought her bike Dec. 13, 2006, from Chunky River. She noticed a steering problem but continued to ride the bike, then ran off the road Dec. 29 despite good road conditions and obedience to speed limits. She sustained serious injuries.

H-D issued recall notices for that model of bike Jan. 22 and March 15 of 2007. According to a copy of the decision posted at Leagle, “The recall informed motorcycle owners that the size and location of a voltage regulator could make contact with the front fender of the motorcycle in certain circumstances, potentially impacting the driver's ability to steer.”

But in pretrial motions, Rutledge’s attorneys did not bring on an expert to tie the defect to her accident, or even prove it existed on her bike. An H-D expert said it was unrelated and her bike did not have the defect. H-D’s attorneys persuaded the court to dismiss the case, and Rutledge appealed.

The Fifth Circuit court upheld the District Court’s decision, finding that recall notices for the same model of bike were not sufficient to prove the defect that was the subject of the recall caused the accident.

The case Is Rutledge V. Harley-Davidson Motor Co., 09-60533.

Posted by Holly Wagner