Parents Sue E-Bike Maker After Their 12-Year-Old Daughter Dies Following a Crash

photo of California personal injury attorney Derryl S. Halpern

Derryl S. Halpern, Attorney at Law

Lawsuit filed in Los Angeles County alleges defective design and product marketing defects were the cause of child’s wrongful death. by Nadia El-Yaouti

Bike helmets should be safe and appropriate for e-bike riders, assuming the speeds and acceleration don’t put them at the level of a motorcycle.”
— Derryl S. Halpern, California Personal Injury Lawyer
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA, UNITED STATES, September 15, 2022 / -- The parents of a 12-year-old girl have filed a lawsuit against popular e-bike maker Rad Power Bikes. According to the New York Times, the lawsuit was filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court by parents Kaye and Jonathan Steinsapir. The case is KAYE STEINSAPIR AN INDIVIDUAL AND SUCCESSOR-IN- INTEREST TO DECEDENT MOLLY STEINSAPIR, ET AL. VS RAD POWER BIKES, INC., A DELAWARE CORPORATION, ET AL., Case No. 22STCV24714.

In their complaint, the Steinsapirs accuse the bike manufacturer of knowingly producing and distributing electric bikes with defective designs. It was this defective design that allegedly caused the injury which led to their daughter's death, 12-year-old Molly Steinsapir.

In an interview with Good Morning America, the parents recounted their daughter's experience on the e-bike. They explained that their daughter Molly was riding on the back of the e-bike with a friend as they were going down a hill. As the bike gained speed, the Steinsapirs explain that the e-bike began to wobble and shake, causing the girls to lose control and crash. As a result of her fall, Molly sustained a traumatic brain injury, despite having a helmet on.

The lawsuit goes into detail about the crash. Molly’s parents allege in the complaint that their daughter and a friend climbed aboard the RadRunner e-bike. The bike belonged to the 13-year-old sister of the friend. The lawsuit explains that Molly was seated on a flat rack that extended over the back wheel of the bike. This was a feature the lawsuit said “invites a passenger to sit in tandem” with the main rider.

After getting on the bike, the girls went up a hill that the parents allege they would not have been able to climb up otherwise had it not been for the power provided by the bike. After the girls turned the bike around it began to “rapidly pick up speed” before it “began shaking.” The lawsuit explains that Molly’s friend tried to use the rear brakes but that the bike did not slow down. When she tried using the front brakes, the bike did not stop.

The lawsuit adds that the e-bike had “disc brakes in conjunction with a quick-release mechanism for detaching the front wheel.” This design was a “known safety hazard” in the e-bike industry, according to the parents. Despite knowing that the bike design was flawed, the company continued producing and distributing the bike.

The family documented the horrific experience online and quickly gained hundreds of thousands of followers who prayed and donated toward Molly’s recovery. A GoFundMe account set up for Molly's treatment and recovery raised nearly $20,000 before donations were disabled.

Molly's mother shared regular updates about her daughter's condition until she was ultimately declared brain-dead weeks after multiple surgeries, blood transfusions, and testing failed to save her life.

The Steinsapirs detail in their lawsuit that the e-bikes feature a defective design that allows them to shake and wobble, making it difficult for riders to control. During rates of high speed, or when going downhill, this defective design makes it hard for riders to slow down and stop. They allege that the defective design was what caused their daughter and her friend to fall off of the e-bike.

The parents also allege that the company's marketing practices were deceptive because they targeted children even though the instruction manual said that the bike should be used with riders aged 18 and older. The lawsuit contends that the bike maker failed to "adequately warn about the dangers of children operating e-bikes." In an interview with Good Morning America, Molly's father shared that "The first step Rad should have is something on the bike itself warning age appropriateness."

Given that Molly was under 18 and was seated on a rack rather than a bicycle seat, it seems likely the company could put forward as a defense that the bicycle was not being used as intended. Derryl S. Halpern, a bicycle accident attorney who practices injury law throughout Southern California but is not involved in this lawsuit, feels certain the manufacturer would allege such a defense, which he says is common in product liability cases. “Such a defense would go to the decedent’s possible contributory negligence which if found true by a jury would reduce the award based upon the percentage attributed to the decedent,” says Halpern. The applicable standard, according to Halpern, would be whether Molly was acting as a “reasonable pre-teen,” which is a variation on the “reasonable person” standard used to judge an accident victim’s behavior regarding whether they were partly to blame for the accident or not.

However, the parents also highlight that a Rad bike similar to the one Molly was riding on was marketed as being appropriate for riders 4 ft 10 in or taller, the height of many young children and teens. In some digital marketing material, children are pictured sitting on the bike, conveying the message that it was appropriate for children to use them despite the operating manual detailing that it was not.

In response to the lawsuit, Rad Power Bikes shared a statement in which they extended their “deepest condolences to the Steinsapir family on the tragic loss of Molly Steinsapir." They added, however, that they do not comment on pending litigation.

It is also notable that the family is additionally suing the helmet manufacturer, given the fact that Molly suffered a traumatic brain injury in the accident which eventually led to her death. Attorney Derryl Halpern comments that bike helmets should be appropriate for e-bikes, assuming the speeds and acceleration don’t put them at the level of a motorcycle. Since the case against the bike manufacturer and helmet manufacturer involve the same common accident, Halpern explains that it would be appropriate to litigate and try both cases at the same time. “Of course, there would be a litany of different experts for each different component of the crash, and the plaintiffs would have to prove their case against each of the defendants,” Halpern says.

Electric bikes rose to popularity not long after electric scooters began dominating the landscape of bustling cities throughout the nation. The rise of electric bikes, however, brought an increase in injuries and fatalities.

According to the federal consumer product safety commission, there has been a steady uptick of about 70% in a rise of injury while operating an electric scooter, electric bike, or hoverboard between the years 2017 and 2020. During that period, there have been a recorded 71 fatalities as a result of these motorized pedestrian vehicles.

Much like other popular electric bikes, the Rad Rider can reach speeds of up to 20 mph when it is not being peddled. Unlike pedal-operated bikes, electric bikes bring forward the opportunity of greater risk of injury and fatality during a crash because of the higher rate of speed they're able to reach.

Derryl S. Halpern
Halpern Law Firm
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