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The most common safety risks that we come across in our daily work around bicycle safety, technology and operating instructions are also published by us in articles in the leading German special-interest magazines TOUR (Europe's road bike magazine no. 1), BIKE (Europe's mountain bike magazine no. 1), MYBIKE and EMTB in order to make this information, which is important for the industry, available to a wider public.

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SAZbike 21/2014
Reading time 2:20 minutes

OLG judgement: Are we going to face US-American conditions?

Due to the judgement of the Higher Regional Court Nuremberg, bicycle manufacturers may face a flood of lawsuits. As the manufacturer had refrained from explaining the precise purpose of use of a mountain bike in the operating instructions, they were sentenced to pay a considerable amount of damages. For this reason an expert fears now that Germany is going to face "US-American conditions".

In May 2014 in the specific case the Higher Regional Court Nuremberg adjudged damages to an adolescent as the bicycle frame had broken and the boy fallen during the landing after a wheelie. On this occasion he lost two teeth which had to be replaced at great expenses. The accusation of the boy’s family: There was no designation of the bicycle manufacturer in the user manual that the mountain bike was not suitable for this purpose of use. The Higher Regional Court Nuremberg decided in favour of the claimant: A faulty instruction is given, in the event the manufacturer of a mountain bike refrains from pointing out in the user manual the insufficient suitability for an obvious use (in this case: stoppies, wheelies, slides, riding stairs etc.), which may result in frame breakage.

The court claimed the missing notice in the user manual relating to the categorization. The expert Dirk Zedler therefore subsumes the judgement as follows: "In the event, the user of a mountain bike falls due to frame breakage, the manufacturer of the mountain bike is liable  for the material and immaterial damage resulting thereof, if they have failed to point out in the user manual that the bicycle is not suitable for being used for tricks and riding manoeuvres usually possible for a mountain bike." The judgement of the Higher Regional Court is based on a judgement of the Federal Court of Justice of Germany according to which a manufacturer, as a fundamental matter, is liable for any damage incurred as a result of a defective product. A product is also defective, in the event the consumer was not clearly informed about the use in the user manual.

According to Zedler, this means for the bicycle sector that the respective user manual must state in clear terms for which uses the bicycle is suitable and for which it is not. According to the expert, the bicycle sector has come close to US-American conditions. "Everyone has laughed at the story of the cat in the microwave oven. Right now we are at a point where product liability in the bicycle sector is on exactly this way." In future, clients have to be informed as detailed as possible. It must be assumed that they have neither experience nor that they can properly estimate their capabilities. "The consequences for the manufacturers are significant. In the mentioned case, it would be necessary to describe bicycle use and limitations of use to the tiniest details to prevent the formation of the smallest information gap. This causes considerable duties for the producers - from promotion to delivery", fears Zedler. For this reason, the expert advises to revise user manuals, even if they have already been used for quite a long time.

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