SAN RAFAEL, US (Feb 18) - A lawsuit filed yesterday accuses San Rafael-based Dynacraft Industries Inc. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. of conspiring to sell bicycles they know are defective and have caused injuries.
The lawsuit was filed in Marin Superior Court on behalf of nine children from throughout the nation who were injured when the front wheel of the Next brand bicycles they were riding detached, sending them over the handle bars.
The lawsuit claims Wal-Mart and Dynacraft have sold millions of "death trap" bicycles with quick-release front wheels that were manufactured in China. The bikes were imported by Dynacraft and shipped to Wal-Mart stores unopened and unchecked for essential components.
The bikes were supposed to include warnings stating that the axle nuts or quick-release levers needed adjustment and could cause accidents if they were to become loose.
"It's not isolated, and they are still selling them," said San Francisco attorney Mark Webb, who represents the families. "We want it to stop. We want Wal-Mart to stop and say, 'We're going to do something about it.'"
Webb settled a similar lawsuit with Wal-Mart and Dynacraft last year. He said he was not at liberty to discuss the terms of the settlement.
Wal-Mart spokesman Gus Whitcomb said he could not comment on the lawsuit because he had not seen it. He said he was not aware of previous lawsuits concerning the quick-release bikes but confirmed the chain still sells the Next brand.
Whitcomb said the company does not sell products that are found to be unsafe.
"Generally, we are only going to sell products that we feel are safe," Whitcomb said from the chain's headquarters in Bentonville, Ark.
A Dynacraft representative could not be reached for comment yesterday.
In April 2004, Dynacraft recalled 53,000 BMX bicycles because the stems that connect the handle bars to the frame could loosen during use, causing riders to fall.
In 2002, Dynacraft and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recalled about 4,700 mountain bikes sold through the Target discount chain due to defective forks.
In 2001, the company recalled 38,000 boys' mountain bikes because the front suspension fork could break, resulting in serious crashes.
According to the lawsuit, Wal-Mart and Dynacraft "knowingly and willfully conspired and agreed among themselves to commit fraud and deceit, misrepresentation and breach of both implied and express warranties by concealing and attempting to conceal the dangerous and defective nature of these front wheel quick release bicycles."
The complaint maintains that Wal-Mart and Dynacraft have known about the bikes' defects for years, and have avoided responsibility for the products. Families were told children were at fault because they had made "rider errors," according to the lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages.
Source: Nancy Isles Nation, IJ reporter