Class action lawsuit settlement announced in defective motorcycle helmet case

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by Michael Heygood

Motorcycle helmets save lives. In 2010 alone, helmets are believed to have saved the lives of more than 1500 motorcyclists. Of course, to be effective, a helmet needs to be sturdy, well-manufactured, and meet all design and safety standards set by the U.S. Department of Transportation (“DOT”). The DOT grades motorcycle helmets based on their compliance with federal standards, and motorcyclists should buy only those helmets that are compliant with Department of Transportation standards.

Class Action Against Fulmer Helmets

Robert Fabian purchased two Fulmer AF-50 motorcycle helmets and sold one to a friend. The friend later suffered a fatal brain injury in a motorcycle accident while wearing the Fulmer helmet. Fabian later learned that in August 2002, the AF-50 model helmet had failed safety testing by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) mandated under Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 218 for DOT certification.

Mr. Fabian brought a class action lawsuit against Fulmer Helmets, Inc. on behalf of all consumers who purchased AF-50 helmets after the date of the failed NHTSA test. His lawsuit contended that the helmets failed to provide adequate protection and that customers had relied on Fulmer’s misrepresentations that the helmets were DOT-approved.

The lawsuit alleged that during the August 2002 testing, some of the AF-50 helmets failed the “impact attenuation test,” a safety test measuring the degree to which a helmet can withstand penetration and attenuate the force of an impact. According to the class action suit, despite failing the test, Fulmer Helmets continued to promote the helmets as “DOT approved” and took no steps to notify consumers of the safety issues or to recall or redesign the helmets.

The class action, Fabian v. Fulmer Helmets, Inc., No. 2:09-cv-02305 (W.D. Tenn. Apr. 30, 2012), has now been settled. Each class member has the option of receiving a replacement helmet from Fulmer or a cash payment of $25.

Death and Injury Lawsuits Due to Defective Motorcycle Helmets

The Fabian class action sought to get free replacement helmets. Of course, there are some things that can’t be replaced. As the story of Mr. Fabian’s friend reminds us, a motorcycle accident can all too often result in severe brain injury or even death.

Problems with motorcycle helmets can include issues such as: lack of impact resistant material, helmet fastener defects causing the helmet to move out of position, as well as failure to comply with safety standards and testing (such as retention requirements, penetration deflection tests, and impact attenuation during a collision).

Motorcycle helmets can also potentially have a defective chin strap. If a strap fails to properly secure the helmet during a collision, the results can be as tragic as if no helmet was being worn. For example, one helmet manufacturer paid $4 million to settlement a lawsuit alleging a defective helmet strap was responsible for a man’s serious brain injuries. The investigation of the accident revealed that the motorcycle helmet was not on his head after the accident. The strap was broken and analysis of the helmet showed that the helmet had already come off before the man impacted with the other vehicle.

In addition, there was evidence that the securing strap was unable to withstand the initial deceleration force that occurred when the motorcycle first hit the vehicle and before flying forward. A biomechanical engineer explained how the brain injury sustained could not have resulted if the helmet has still been on the man’s head when he hit the door of the other vehicle headfirst.

HO&P & Defective Products

To successfully bring a claim involving a defective product such as a motorcycle helmet, clients need an experienced, educated attorney on their side. They also need an attorney with the financial resources to take the case to trial. At Heygood, Orr & Pearson, we have tried literally hundreds of cases to verdict and have settled hundreds more.

Our firm is AV-rated, the highest legal and ethical rating available from the leading law firm rating service. Our partners Michael Heygood, Jim Orr, and Eric Pearson are all Board Certified in Personal Injury Trial Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. Mr. Heygood and Mr. Orr are additionally Board Certified in Civil Trial Advocacy Law by the National Board of Trial Advocacy. Our partners been voted by their peers as “Super Lawyers” in the state of Texas for several years in a row.*

If you have suffered a serious personal injury or a loved one has suffered a serious injury or death as the result of the actions of another person or entity, you may have a claim for compensation. Contact the lawyers at Heygood, Orr & Pearson for your free case evaluation and to learn more about your legal right to compensation. You can reach us by calling toll-free at 1-877-446-9001, or by filling out a free legal consultation form.

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Michael Heygood, James Craig Orr, Jr. and Eric Pearson were selected to the Super Lawyers List, a Thomson Reuters publication, for the years 2003 through 2012.