REI shirks responsibility & appeals Monika Johnson case

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stevep

Boulder climber
Salt Lake, UT
May 19, 2011 - 10:09am PT
I obviously don't know all the details about how this case worked, but if it was a manufacturing defect, I would think that the fault is with the fork manufacturer, not with REI. The Novara bikes are REI's house brand, but I don't think they make them. I'm sure they are made at some factory in China, and I'd bet that the CF forks are made in China or Taiwan as well. I'd imagine a small shop would act the same if this was a Specialized bike they sold.

The exception to this would be if the failure was due to an assembly problem...i.e. an REI employee cranked the headset down too much or accidentally cut the steerer tube carbon fiber. But if it was an actual manufacturer defect, I'm not sure it would be appropriate to hold REI liable.
FortMental

Social climber
Albuquerque, NM
May 19, 2011 - 10:13am PT
But if it was an actual manufacturer defect, I'm not sure it would be appropriate to hold REI liable.
It would be perfectly appropriate. Afterwards, REI would be free to sue their supplier for failure to provide components as per spec.
John Moosie

climber
Beautiful California
May 19, 2011 - 10:18am PT
I don't understand not holding REI liable. So if a Sears brand breaks in a dangerous manner, you don't hold Sears responsible? I don't understand this. Can someone explain this? What about a Vons brand food product? If it kills someone? Vons has no responsibility? They get to put their name on it, get all the benefits but have no responsibility if it goes bad? Something about that sounds like baloney to me. So explain it to me please.

And this business about it being part of the contract that the insurer gets to decide. That sounds like more big business bullshit to me. What happened to the "customer is always right"? If a big company like REI stood up to the insurance industry, then we would have less of this bullsh#t.
Mighty Hiker

climber
Vancouver, B.C.
May 19, 2011 - 10:25am PT
John, you have mandatory third party liability insurance to cover operation of your vehicle, right? The not so fine print in your policy clearly states that in the event of a claim or suit, the insurer (not you) has the right to appoint the lawyer who will defend it, and the right to decide what the defence will be. There are few limitations on the insurer's right to conduct the defence.

That's standard in the world of insurance, and part of the trade offs. And given that it is the insurance company that is likely to be paying any decision or settlement, doesn't it make sense if they hold the reins?
John Moosie

climber
Beautiful California
May 19, 2011 - 10:30am PT
I agree that they insurer should hold the reins. And I am aware that I don't get to decide on my car insurance. My insurance settled in one case, which actually hurt me. I think the insuree should have some control. If that means their rates go up because of the decision they make, then thats what it means. But even REI has to know that if this case goes viral, then they will lose a lot of goodwill. I just don't like the whole notion of the insurance industry being the decider which absolves the big companies from any decision making or responsibility once it is in the hands of the insurer.

So what about my question about companies like Sears and Vons? Do they hold no responsibility?

Edit: Sears, Vons, REI, and other major companies decide who will represent their brand. They chose the manufacturer and decide the parameters. So why doesn't this make them at least partially liable?
couchmaster

climber
pdx
May 19, 2011 - 10:31am PT
I challenge you to find a "Novara" brand bike for sale new by any Mfg anywhere that is not REI. "Novara" is REI's house brand. Had this been a "Trek" or "Giant", I'd have some sympathy, but it's their brand which they import and control and theirs alone.

F*#kers.
Mangy Peasant

Social climber
Riverside, CA
May 19, 2011 - 10:33am PT
John,

Not a lawyer, but I took a business law class once. So I know just enough to give bad advice...

What I did learn is that there are some very established rules for product liability and negligence. Probably millions of people have been injured using manufactured products that originate through complex manufacturing chains. There are thousands of these types of cases and many decades of precedent. A lot of smart people (i.e. judges) have analyzed these types of issues over the years and developed rules for determining who is responsible.

Like any part of the legal system, the rules are imperfect, but a tremendous amount of logic and reasoning has gone into developing them.

In this case, it may seem reasonable to blame REI since they sold the product. But think about the practical realities: How could REI really ensure everything they sell is safe? Do they have to test every single product they purchase for resale? Does every distributor or reseller along the production chain have to do the same?

Does the mom and pop climbing shop test every piece of climbing gear they put on their shelves? Should they be required to do so?

Is this case different because REI owns the Novara brand, but it is manufactured by a third party?

So maybe the managers of REI are being jerks, or maybe they have a legitimate legal foundation for their position. I honestly don't know. That's why we have courts. Let them decide.

Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
Run like the wind.
May 19, 2011 - 10:35am PT
I challenge you to find a "Novara" brand bike for sale new by any Mfg anywhere that is not REI. "Novara" is REI's house brand. Had this been a "Trek" or "Giant", I'd have some sympathy, but it's their brand which they import and control and theirs alone.

F*#kers.


Brave men step up at personal risk to sell you a bike which you would rather not pay someone else to build and this is how you thank them? You're welcome I'm sure, BTW.

DMT
Gene

climber
May 19, 2011 - 10:39am PT
MP asks,
In this case, it may seem reasonable to blame REI since they sold the product. But think about the practical realities: How could REI really ensure everything they sell is safe? Do they have to test every single product they purchase for resale? Does every distributor or reseller along the production chain have to do the same?

Is this case different because REI owns the Novara brand, but it is manufactured by a third party?

Two courts have already ruled that REI is liable.

From OP link (snipped)
REI has denied responsibility, maintaining that the company who manufactured the fork is responsible, not REI, even though REI sub contracted that company and sold Monika the bike under REI's brand name, Navaro. The superior court sided with Monika, ruling that REI is responsible to Monika and that REI could pursue legal action against the manufacturing company if it wished. REI appealed, and the appellate court ruled in Monika's favor the day she died. And now REI is appealing again.
John Moosie

climber
Beautiful California
May 19, 2011 - 10:40am PT
Mangy, I think that it is one thing to sell a brand like Trek, but another to brand your own item. If you brand something, you are saying that it has the REI quality, and that should mean that you hold some responsibility to whether it is well made or not. If they sell a Trek brand bike, they don't decide where it is manufactured. But if they sell an REI brand bike, they do. So they could decide to go with the lowest bidder, and they should be held responsible for that decision if it goes bad.

The courts are where that should be decided. If REI can show they they did their level best to buy from a reputable manufacturer, and that they didn't push in any way to cut corners, but instead looked for a solid build, then they should have less liability. But they still put their name on it, and that is the crux. It is much different to sell someone elses brand, like Trek, or Bianchi. Its doubtful if any mom or pop outfit would have their own brand. If they do, then they are responsible for how it is manufactured, because they chose the manufacturer.

They don't have to test every piece of gear that isn't their brand. But they do hold responsibility for what they put their name on. You get a benefit, you should have the liability.
Chango

Trad climber
norcal
May 19, 2011 - 10:43am PT
I would think that when a company starts paying medical bills, it then assumes liability for the incident. REI has the best return policy in the industry. It's unfair to make claims that they don't stand behind their product. Do you honestly think an indepent shop wouldn't do the same?Assuming responsibility would destroy a small shop. And if REI took this one on, it would set a precedent for future lawsuits...and potentially destroy the company.
graniteclimber

Trad climber
The Illuminati -- S.P.E.C.T.R.E. Division
May 19, 2011 - 10:45am PT
"REI makes top-rated Novara bikes for all types of cycling including mountain, commuting and road." www.rei.com/brand/Novara

REI stands behind their products or it doesn't.






In November 2007, Monika Johnson was riding her bicycle along a
downtown Seattle sidewalk when the front carbon fiber fork of the bicycle, which attaches the bicycle’s front wheel to its frame, “sheared from the steer tube suddenly and without warning.” Clerk’s Papers (CP) at 57. The fork and front wheel detached from the frame of the bicycle, and Johnson fell face first onto the sidewalk, sustaining serious injuries.

http://www.courthousenews.com/2011/02/11/rei.pdf

In this case, REI is not standing behind their products.
locker

Social climber
CO
May 19, 2011 - 10:46am PT


This thread appears more like an opportunity to bash REI than anything else...

atchafalaya

Boulder climber
May 19, 2011 - 10:46am PT
I do not want to interfere with all the speculation and jailhouse lawyering, but thought some might enjoy the opinion.

http://www.courthousenews.com/2011/02/11/rei.pdf
kunlun_shan

Mountain climber
SF, CA
May 19, 2011 - 10:47am PT
As jfs mentioned, there are some very informative posts on the original thread by Big Steve about how REI is beholden to their insurance company. It would be much cheaper for REI to settle with Monika Johnson, but they are unable to do so.

In addition to the REI case, Steve mentions Yvon Chouinard's "frustration with the litigation control exerted by the insurance carriers" and Chouinard Equipment's forced bankruptcy. Interesting reading about a situation which affects us all, in the USA, whether we know it or not.

http://www.turns-all-year.com/skiing_snowboarding/trip_reports/index.php?topic=20872.0;all
graniteclimber

Trad climber
The Illuminati -- S.P.E.C.T.R.E. Division
May 19, 2011 - 10:47am PT
What is VERY clear is that REI does not claim to be reselling another manufacturer's product. They hold themselves out as making the bicycle.
stevep

Boulder climber
Salt Lake, UT
May 19, 2011 - 10:52am PT
OK, after having posted, I went through and read the linked thread in the initial post. I stand corrected. Apparently, there is a WA law that holds coompanies that privately label stuff (REI/Novara) responsible even though they are not the mfg. So legally it sounds like holding them responsible is correct.
There are also some good posts from a lawyer on that thread indicating that REI may be in the position of being somewhat bound by their contract with their product liability insurance carrier. They may have been unable to settle and forced to fight this in court.
Sucks all the way around.
graniteclimber

Trad climber
The Illuminati -- S.P.E.C.T.R.E. Division
May 19, 2011 - 10:53am PT
Thank your for posting the link.

IN THE COURT OF APPEALS OF THE STATE OF WASHINGTON
DIVISION ONE
No. 65463-2-I

MONIKA JOHNSON, )
Respondent,

v.

RECREATIONAL EQUIPMENT, INC.
(REI), a Washington corporation,

Petitioner.
FILED: February 7, 2011


PUBLISHED OPINION


Accordingly, we affirm the trial court’s ruling that Recreational Equipment,
Inc. (REI) is not entitled to seek to allocate fault to the manufacturer of the No. 65463-2-I/2
defective product that REI branded as its own. We also conclude that the trial
court erred neither by finding REI strictly liable for the injuries caused by the
defective product
nor by ruling that any third party claim by REI against the
manufacturer would be severed for trial
Gal

Trad climber
a semi lucid consciousness
May 19, 2011 - 10:55am PT
Yes, don't know how many more times the courts have to say REI is liable. Also, I read the other thread on the ski/snowboard site, and someone asks the question that I really think needs answered-who is REI's insurance provider (maybe someone already said who)? If they (REI) really have no control in this litigation, let the bad press point to where it should: The giant, apparently inhumane, Insurance company. Maybe this was already answered, but if enough people begin to point their frustration toward the insurance company (that apparently is propelling this litigation), it would (hopefully) make a difference/put pressure in the right spot.

So who is their insurance provider...? Where/who does one send a letter to?

I wish things had gone better for Monika... :(
She should have been compensated for all medical/dental without hesitation. I don't like to see the "little guy" (girl) get screwed. I do recongnize how how these giants apparently need to fight it out to establish the way future cases go, but in the meantime, Monika clearly needed to be compensated.

Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
Run like the wind.
May 19, 2011 - 11:01am PT
Feeling sorry for a corporation is like feeling sorry for that piece of paper there on your desk.

DMT
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