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REI Loses Liability Suit for Defective Bike Part

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Recreational Equipment Inc. is responsible for a defective bicycle part manufactured by another company and sold under the REI brand, a Washington appeals court ruled, just days after the plaintiff died in a backcountry skiing accident.

Monika Johnson sued REI after a defective carbon fiber fork on her bicycle caused her to crash in 2007 and sustain serious injuries. The bike and part were manufactured by Aprebic Industry Company, but sold under REI’s brand name Novara. The trial court had ruled that REI has the liability of a manufacturer under the Washington Product Liability Act, and the appeals court agreed.

The three-judge panel, in a February 7th opinion, held that: "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 defective product that REI branded as its own.” Ironically, Johnson died during a ski trip on Feb. 1, when a snow ledge she was standing on broke, dropping her down a mountainside and burying her under snow.