Duty to Train

Retailers are in the best position, I believe, to avoid releasing defective bicycles (and other products) to customers.  That’s because a retailer is the last in the supply chain to possess the bicycle before release to the public.  This fact occasionally leads to liability to the retailer when, in fact, the defect was caused by the manufacturer.  But in products liability, there’s something called “strict liability”.  This means liability will be imposed on any party in the supply chain, regardless of fault.

Often, the retailer is the actual cause of the defect because the retailer often also assembles the bicycles, but incorrectly.  Many retailers (including Walmart) try to avoid liability by passing on the assembly of the bicycle to an independent third party but as I’ve shown in a previous post, that is legally impossible.  And it doesn’t matter to the law and the public, because the retailer’s position as the releasing party would seem to create a duty to avoid releasing any defective product into the stream of commerce by discovering the defect through a reasonable inspection.  Case law supports this concept.

A sales associate can quickly and easily inspect a bicycle before it is released to the customer by doing simple things.  While assembling a bicycle might require more extensive training, training for a sales associate to provide a reasonably competent inspection is much less involved.  A very basic safety inspection would reveal 90% of the most common defects in a bicycle.  All levels of trainings, whether for sales associates or bicycle mechanics is readily available – even online, at very affordable prices.

In summary, all retailers should train their bicycle sales associates even if they do not work on bicycles.  Their inspection could be the most important inspection because they have the last opportunity to avoid releasing a potentially dangerous, defective bicycle.  I rarely conclude my writings with a punchline type teaser, but this time I will.  My concluding thought on that matter, though I have not seen in my case studies is this:  a bicycle that has been tampered with while on the sales floor, where the tampering is the actual cause of the defect.  In my experience, this could be an issue, but again, it doesn’t matter to the courts.

  • Bicycle Typogram image credit goes to to Aaron Kuehn.  Look him up atAaronkuehn.com/