LOS ANGELES (BRAIN) — A Los Angeles judge has approved a $1.5 million settlement between the parents of a 12-year-old girl who died following an e-bike crash and the parents of the 11-year-old girl who was piloting the bike. The e-bike’s maker, Rad Power Bikes, opposed the settlement and has filed a cross-complaint against the parents of the surviving rider.
Jonathan and Kaye Steinsapir, the parents of passenger Molly Steinsapir, name Rad Power and helmet brand Giro in a wrongful death lawsuit filed Aug. 1. This fall, the Steinsapirs asked the court to approve a “good-faith” settlement with Lyle Green and Melanie Green, the e-bike’s owners and the parents of the girl who was piloting the bike. The Greens’ daughter, who was best friends with Molly, suffered superficial injuries in the crash. The Greens and the Steinsapirs agreed on the settlement in principle in March.
The Greens are not parties to the wrongful death lawsuit. However Rad Power — which has denied liability for the death — named the Greens as defendants in a cross-complaint filed in September. In the cross-complaint, Rad Power demands that the Greens indemnify the bike maker for at least some of the liability if Rad Power ultimately loses the case. The cross-complaint posits that any wrongdoing Rad Power could be found responsible for would be “passive” in nature and secondary to the “active and primary” liabilities of the Greens.
The initial cross-complaint referred to the Greens as “Roes;” Rad Power later amended the complaint to add the Greens’ names.
According to the good faith settlement motion filed by the Steinsapirs’ attorney, if Rad Power Bikes agreed to the settlement, the Steinsapirs would hold the brand harmless for any portion of the economic damages a jury assigned that exceeded its percentage of fault. The Steinsapires’ economic damages were nearly $800,000 in medical costs.The Steinsapirs have offered Rad Power an opportunity to settle the product liability claim in accordance with its $7 million insurance policy limit. If the sides don’t reach a settlement a trial is scheduled for Oct. 16, 2023.
Bell Sports, which also denies liability in the case, approved the settlement between the Greens and the Steinsapirs, accepting the offer to be held harmless for economic damages over any assigned percentage of fault. Molly was wearing a helmet made by Giro, a sister brand to Bell; both are owned by Vista Outdoor.
On Oct. 28 Rad Power filed a motion opposing the settlement between the parents. The company said the Greens ignored warnings in the e-bike’s owner’s manual about allowing children to ride the e-bike, and charged that the Greens and the Steinsapirs, who are neighbors, colluded in reaching a settlement. Rad Power said it was unwilling to approve the settlement without a “ballpark” idea of the complete size of any eventual judgment or settlement in the case.
After a hearing on Dec. 9, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Richard L. Fruin issued an order accepting the parents’ settlement agreement the following day.
The wrongful death lawsuit asks for a jury trial that will determine damages, and says Rad Power Bikes markets e-bikes to children without adequate warnings. In addition, design defects contributed to the accident and Molly’s death, according to the suit. Court documents show that Rad Power is demanding to inspect the bike before a trial.
On Jan. 31, 2021, Molly was riding behind her best friend, who was operating a RadRunner model e-bike, which can accommodate a passenger. While descending a steep hill — steep enough that the lawsuit says the two girls would not have been able to ascend it on a traditional bike — the e-bike began to “shake and wobble, causing the bike to crash.”
While her friend suffered cuts and abrasions, Molly was unconscious and taken to Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center. After several brain surgeries, she never regained consciousness and died on Feb. 15.