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  1. #1
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    Do I need to worry about liability if I fix a friends bike?

    I had just finished a trail before a race the other day and was standing at the trail head talking to some folks. An acquaintance came up to me asking for help on his bike. The nearest bike shop was only a half hour's drive in the next town and even though the guy had plenty of time to get there and back he was reluctant to go get professional help.

    I knew what was wrong with his bike because I had the same problem with my bike and so did a half dozen of my friends. A bolt on the lower suspension link was notorious for working it's way loose and into the small chainring. I told him what I knew about it and offered to loan him my tools to fix it. However, he made some comment about not ever wanting to have to do any of his own maintenance on his bike and asked if I would fix it for him.

    Although I thought it odd that a grown man in his middle 50's would be afraid of tools I thought I'd try to help out a fellow mountain biker. Apparantly he had ridden for a while on the loose link bolt and stressed it because it snapped in-to when I went to tighten it. Although I didn't use a torque wrench I know I was not baring down on it past it's tolerance. I tightened it up to finger tight and just when I was applying some pressure it snapped.

    At that point I strongly suggested that he make the drive to the bike shop where they could use an extractor to get the damaged bolt out. I strongly suggested that he not try to ride and especially try to race on it until it was fixed. As he put his bike back into his truck he said that he was going to try to race on it anyway! I once again told him that he was asking for frame damage and even body damage if he did. He ignored me and went his way.

    Although he never said anything about being mad that I snapped the bolt off the incident has been kind of bothering me. I wasn't at the race the next day to see whether or not he had it fixed at a shop or whether or not he was silly enough to try to race on a damaged suspension.

    Now I'm wondering if he were to race, crash, and damaged his bike or body if he could have a good case to sue me. Reguardless of that am I obligated to pay for the repairs on his bike?

    What do you all think?

  2. #2
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    i dont know... but it seems like he got what he asked for.
    i won't deny it i'm a straight ridah

  3. #3
    feros ferio John E's Avatar
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    Since you did not charge for your services, you are not liable, but of course anyone can sue anyone else for any reason. Next time anyone asks you to perform a freebie repair, relate this sad tale of woe before accepting the task.
    "Early to bed, early to rise. Work like hell, and advertise." -- George Stahlman
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  4. #4
    You need a new bike supcom's Avatar
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    First off, IANAL.

    I doubt you could be held liable for damage or injury as a result of riding the bike since you had warned the owner that the bike was not safe to ride in its present condition.

    Whether you could be held liable for repair of the broken bolt might depend on what representations you made (or implied) as to your ability to make the repair in the first place and whether the owner could demonstrate that you broke the bolt due to a lack of that ability.

  5. #5
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    Originally posted by supcom
    First off, IANAL.

    I doubt you could be held liable for damage or injury as a result of riding the bike since you had warned the owner that the bike was not safe to ride in its present condition.

    That makes sense. I'm now glad that I warned him not once but twice about it.

    Originally posted by supcom

    Whether you could be held liable for repair of the broken bolt might depend on what representations you made (or implied) as to your ability to make the repair in the first place and whether the owner could demonstrate that you broke the bolt due to a lack of that ability.
    Well, I said I knew what was wrong because I had witnessed it happening with several friends bikes as well as my own. I never said anything like "I can fix it for you" or anything like that. I told him he was welcome to use my tools and I told him what he needed to do and pulled the tool from my toolbox and tried to hand it to him never thinking that I would be the one doing the work.

  6. #6
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    Originally posted by John E
    Next time anyone asks you to perform a freebie repair, relate this sad tale of woe before accepting the task.
    Good point!

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    I doubt that you could be held responsible for anything in this instance. But you might inform anyone that may ask you for help in the future that you are not a professional mechanic and they must take full responsibility if it doesn't work.
    The alternative, of course, is to say you don't know how to do it.
    ljbike

  8. #8
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    Originally posted by tFUnK
    but it seems like he got what he asked for.
    I agree! I would never let anybody touch my bike unless I trusted that they knew what they were doing. He was only an acquaintance and had no idea whether I was a Barnett's certified bicycle mechanic or a holy terror with tools. As a matter of fact I wasn't the first one he asked to help him but the first guy didn't have the right tools. Lucky him!

  9. #9
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    Originally posted by ljbike
    But you might inform anyone that may ask you for help in the future that you are not a professional mechanic and they must take full responsibility if it doesn't work.
    The alternative, of course, is to say you don't know how to do it.
    Also a good point! I guess if I were in a situation where I felt I needed to help someone I could give them some sort of verbal disclaimer like; you know I'm not a professional and I could make a mistake and break your bike do you still want me to work on your bike?

  10. #10
    Senior Member joeprim's Avatar
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    I've never worried about getting sued, but when the guy wouldn't go to the bike shop and wouldn't do it himself when you offered him the tool I would have thought he was wiered and had an appointment some where else.

    Joe

  11. #11
    Jungle lady cbhungry's Avatar
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    If you are in New York anything goes.
    Ride forever, work whenever.
    XX power
    Eat more mud, mountain bike 'till you die!

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  12. #12
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    Originally posted by John E
    Since you did not charge for your services, you are not liable, but of course anyone can sue anyone else for any reason. Next time anyone asks you to perform a freebie repair, relate this sad tale of woe before accepting the task.
    Do we have any attorneys on the list? I really think this is a good subject but would like to see some opinions from the legal community.

    :confused:
    Robert Tankersley

  13. #13
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    Originally posted by cbhungry
    If you are in New York anything goes.
    What about Arkansas?

  14. #14
    FOG
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    If you don't get sued you are not liable. If you do get sued issues would be equitable, contract, and tort. Contract and tort are legal issues so you would have to know if your jurisdiction merges equity and law, as Maryland does. Then you would have to examine if there were a contract between you and the owner, and if so, what were the exchanges of consideration- which I don't see here. If there is no consideration then we are down to tort or equity. You were not unjustly enriched, so equity seems to be inapplicable, except for your counterclaim, as the owner was enriched by your actions. Finally we are down to tort, and here the question would be whether you met the standard of care for what you did. If you acted within the standard of care by performing an action you had reason to believe you were competent and skilled in, and a part failed, then you would not be liable. You could prove that breaking bolts is a normal consequence of maintenance activity by expert testimony, or by showing that most mechanic's training manuals address removal of broken bolts. These are just general considerations, and if you become party to litigation you would be well-advised to seek competent counsel for your jurisdiction.

  15. #15
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    Nah........no big deal .......nothing to lose sleep over....
    .cinelli.olympic.surly.long.haul.trucker.kona.ku.surly.steamroller.
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  16. #16
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    Originally posted by FOG
    and if you become party to litigation you would be well-advised to seek competent counsel for your jurisdiction.
    It sounds like you know what you are talking about.

    You mentioned jurisdiction and that made me think of another question. The event occured in a state in which we both do not reside in. So would he have to go back to that state to file suit or would he be able to do that in our state?

    Thanks!

  17. #17
    FOG
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    He couldsue in the stat in which the act took place, or in your state, or in his, or in the state in which a consequence occurred. The law which would apply would most likely be the law of the state in which your act took place, except that the statute of limitations and procedure would be for the jurisdiction in which the legal action commences. The only guarantee is that if you both live in the same state you cannot get into Federal Court using diversity jurisdiction.

  18. #18
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    Originally posted by FOG
    He couldsue in the stat in which the act took place, or in your state, or in his, or in the state in which a consequence occurred. The law which would apply would most likely be the law of the state in which your act took place, except that the statute of limitations and procedure would be for the jurisdiction in which the legal action commences. The only guarantee is that if you both live in the same state you cannot get into Federal Court using diversity jurisdiction.
    :confused: .. umm.. I dont think I'll be helping any more people on the trail any more..

    Maybe I am wrong, but wouldnt this fall under a good semaritan law?? Or is that only for fixing people??

    -BlueDevil

  19. #19
    FOG
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    Originally posted by BlueDevil
    :confused: .. umm.. I dont think I'll be helping any more people on the trail any more..

    Maybe I am wrong, but wouldnt this fall under a good semaritan law?? Or is that only for fixing people??

    -BlueDevil
    You asked whether you might e liable, not wheter it is likely you would be liable. Those are two different questions. I feel it is all about managing the risks you take. Personally, I help people if I can. If I get sued, then they suck, and I will get as mean as a junkyard dog in court.

    Goodd Samaritan laws generally protect health care professionals who give immediate emergency aid, and not in the course of their ordinary duties, by holding them to some lower standard of care. For example, a good sam law will protect a dentist who does an emergency tracheotomy to save a life, if there is any kind of call for it, but might not protect the health care professional from other kinds of malpractice, such as reckless or intentional misdeeds. some good sam laws may protect non professionals too, but you need to chek the state code for exact details.

  20. #20
    Goes both ways - MTB/RB LegalIce's Avatar
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    One other point about some of the things stated above...while a contract requires some form of consideration, it does not require it to be monetary in nature. So please, remember money need not changes hands for liability to be present. And I am not saying liability is present here, just that money is irrelevant...

    Of course this applies to lots of things, not just contracts...my favorite being copyright law...but that is another topic for a different forum...

    L8R,
    Greg
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  21. #21
    FOG
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    Originally posted by LegalIce
    One other point about some of the things stated above...while a contract requires some form of consideration, it does not require it to be monetary in nature. So please, remember money need not changes hands for liability to be present. And I am not saying liability is present here, just that money is irrelevant...

    Of course this applies to lots of things, not just contracts...my favorite being copyright law...but that is another topic for a different forum...

    L8R,
    Greg
    I agree that if the guy fixing the bicycle got anything as a result of mutual exchange of promises- not a gratuity, then there might be a contract. In this case, it appears there was no consideration received by the guy who fixed the bike. The liability attaches from tort, IMO, if any at all.

  22. #22
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    Personally I fix my friends bikes all the time because for most repairs, I have the tools and know what I am doing. I have never once thought about liability, nor have any of my friends. We are friends and we trust each other, and if our bikes broke and injured us after a repair, we wouldn't ever think of suing a friend. A friend doesn't treat another friend like that. Also, if you just want to get out and ride, and a short fix is stopping you're friend who doesn't have a clue on how to do it from going, you're going to do it. If you get stuck on a trail with a wobbly wheel from a broken spoke and you're being bitten by millions of mosquitoes, you're going to quickly true the wheel as fast as possible if you're friend doesn't know how. Technically you would probably be at fault, but things don't always follow laws, like courtesy and friendliness. Some things that are legal aren't ethical, some things that are ethical aren't legal. That's all I can say....

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