Mountain bike crash court case - importer loses appeal

East Sussex firm liable for handlebar failure

In a ruling that could set a worrying precedent for British cycle importers, an East Sussex bike importer has been found liable for an accident which left a mountain bike rider with serious head injuries. 

Alan Ide, formerly a self-employed accountant and now aged 49, crashed while riding his 1999 model Marin Rift Zone down a hill in the South Downs in 2002. He was found unconscious next to his bike from which the left handlebar had been sheared. He subsequently sued ATB Sales of St Leonards-on-Sea under the UK’s Consumer Protection Act which renders importers liable for any defective goods they sell. 

The action was brought on the grounds that the company sold a bike with handlebars that were defective as a result of faulty manufacturing and that suffered a catastrophic failure while Mr Ide was riding under normal conditions.  

Mr Ide lost his sense of taste and smell and suffers from impaired memory and concentration as a result of the accident. 

ATB Sales, however, had claimed the damage to the bars could have occurred as a result of the impact as the rider lost control and crashed. 

At the original trial in July 2007 a judge found in favour of Mr Ide, after which ATB Sales appealed on the basis that the judge was not entitled to conclude that Mr Ide had proven his case, simply on the basis that the alternative scenario of the bar breaking upon impact had been rejected. 

In his ruling Lord Justice Thomas disagreed and said that the orginal judge, Mr Justice Gray, “did not use any impermissible train of reasoning” in reaching his conclusion. 

The ruling clears the way for Mr Ide to claim substantial damages.

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