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Philly couple sues Trek, SRAM and retailers after crash with recalled brake

Published October 4, 2023

PHILADELPHIA (BRAIN) — Trek, SRAM, a Taiwanese hub maker, a Trek-owned retail store and an independent Trek dealer are all named in a product liability case involving an alleged coaster brake failure two years after the coaster-brake hub was recalled.

The plaintiff, Philadelphia-area ophthalmologist Mitchell S. Fineman, says he crashed his Electra Coaster 3 bike because its coaster brake didn't work. He bought the bike in 2014 in New Jersey and said he didn't learn of its 2019 recall until almost a year after the crash, which was in 2021.

After the crash — but before he learned of the recall from an internet search — he brought a nearly identical bike to the Trek Manayunk store in Philadelphia for an inspection and was told it was fine and he says he was not informed of the recall, which included the bike he brought in. The store is owned by Trek Retail Corporation.

The suit names the store that sold the bikes, Beacon Cycling in New Jersey; the store's owners; Trek (which owns Electra); Trek Retail Corp.; SRAM, who sold the hub and conducted its recall; and Taiwan's Heng Ying Machinery, which manufactured and assembled the hub.


Nine years ago, Dr. Fineman, who among other things has been the team ophthalmologist for the Philadelphia Eagles since 2003, and his wife, Lucy Fineman, bought a pair of Electra Coaster 3 bikes, one black and one silver, from Beacon Cycling to keep at their house on the Jersey Shore. In June 2021 Fineman says he was riding the silver bike near the shore when he tried to slow to make a left turn, but the brake didn't work and he crashed, injuring his left hand, elbow and tricep. The injuries required surgery and Fineman, who is left-handed, needed to use an arm brace until September that year. He was forced to go on short-term disability for several months because he couldn't perform surgery.

The Finemans put the silver Electra away and didn't use it again. But that fall, Dr. Fineman wanted to resume riding so he brought the black Electra to Manayunk Trek, near his home in the Philadelphia area. He said the shop checked over the bike, test rode it, and told him "the bike is fine."

Months later, Fineman said he became curious about the brake failure and did an internet search, discovering that SRAM had recalled the i-Motion 3-speed coaster brake hubs in 2019 because the coaster brake could fail. Almost all of the 7,700 recalled hubs were spec'd on Electra bikes and SRAM offered to buy back Electras with the hub at Bicycle Blue Book value, or assist in finding replacement hubs for customers who wanted to keep their bikes.

The recall notice advised owners of the bikes to immediately stop using them. At the time SRAM said it was aware of five reports of brake failure, resulting in one minor injury to a rider. SRAM had stopped selling internal gear hubs in 2017

The suit notes that Beacon Cycling, Trek and Trek Manayunk had his email address and had marketed to him by email since about 2017, but did not contact him about the recall. Mrs. Fineman is a co-plaintiff, although she was not injured, because of "her loss of society, companionship and services caused by the crash."

The suit also notes that the Finemans' bikes didn't have a hand brake, but that Electra models released after the recall added a front hand brake.

Legal wrangling

The Finemans filed their case in June at the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County. Trek and SRAM successfully petitioned to move it to the U.S. Court for Eastern Pennsylvania. The complaint makes claims against Trek, SRAM, Beacon and other defendants under both Pennsylvania and New Jersey product liability laws, including negligence and breach of warranty.

Additionally, the complaint singles out Trek Manayunk with a "misrepresentation" claim for allegedly telling Dr. Fineman that the black Electra was OK to ride, despite its recalled coaster brake.

The complaint asks for actual and punitive damages "to deter Defendant and others from engaging in such callous conduct in the future."

Since then, there have been no hearings and few court orders, but the parties have been filing back-and-forth motions and responses.

  • Heng Ying petitioned to leave the case, claiming the court lacked jurisdiction over a Taiwan company and said the company was improperly served.
  • The Finemans say the case was improperly remanded from the state court to federal. Trek and SRAM defended the move in its response and asked the court to sanction the Finemans for "frivolous and meritless arguments" in its motion to remand.
  • Trek and SRAM asked the court to dismiss all the claims under Pennsylvania statutes and apply only New Jersey law. They also asked the court to dismiss the demands for punitive damages because, they said, the Finemans didn't show the defendants acted with "actual malice" or "wanton and willful disregard."
  • Trek and SRAM also asked to throw out the "misrepresentation" complaint against the Trek Manayunk store because, they said, a misrepresentation claim requires the false statement to result in an injury; in this case, they pointed out, Fineman took the black Electra to the store months after the crash.
  • The Finemans responded that they had suffered separate injury from the alleged misrepresentation, "including but not limited to emotional distress." In any case, they argued in a response, that it was improper to dismiss claims for lack of evidence before discovery. The Finemans also noted that while the bikes were purchased in New Jersey, where the crash occurred, the plaintiffs live and work in Pennsylvania, Trek Manayunk is in Pennsylvania and Dr. Fineman was treated for his injuries in Pennsylvania. So making claims under New Jersey and Pennsylvania laws is appropriate, they said.
  • In late September, Beacon and its owners asked the federal court to dismiss the claims against the bike shop and its owners because of lack of jurisdiction. The owners, Mitchell and Susanna Rovins, closed their two stores in February 2022 and retired.
Topics associated with this article: Lawsuits/legal

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