‘Team Molly’ parents sue e-bike company over daughter’s death
The parents of a girl who died after an e-bike accident filed a wrongful death lawsuit Monday against Seattle e-bike company Rad Power Bikes.
In the suit, Kaye and Jonathan Steinsapir, parents of Molly Steinsapir, who died aged 12 last year, say flaws in the bike’s design made it difficult for riders to slow down and stop as the bike picked up speed on the way down.
The lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court, also alleges that Rad Power Bikes engaged in “inappropriate marketing of e-bikes to children,” adding that the company failed to “provide adequately the dangers of children using electric bicycles”.
In a statement, a spokesperson for Rad Power Bikes said, “The entire Rad Power Bikes team sends its deepest condolences to the Steinsapir family on the tragic loss of Molly Steinsapir. We are aware of the complaint filed by the family. Rad Power Bikes does not comment on pending litigation.
The accident happened on January 31, 2021, while Molly was riding with a friend in Los Angeles. Later that day, in a Twitter post Sent from Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, her mother called for help: “Please. Please. Please. All PRAY for my daughter Molly.
For the next 16 days, Ms Steinsapir continued to post on Twitter as Molly, who had suffered a traumatic brain injury, remained in the hospital’s pediatric intensive care unit. Ms Steinsapir’s tweets have been shared hundreds of thousands of times and an online community has formed around the #TeamMolly hashtag.
When Molly died on February 15, her death sparked a flurry of online discussions of grief and mourning nearly a year after the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, which had by then killed more than 475,000 people in the USA
Molly was riding a RadRunner bike, made by Rad Power, when she had her accident. On page 49 of 57 pages owner’s manual for the model, a disclaimer states that “the RadRunner is intended for use by persons 18 years of age and older”. On its website, Rad Power Bikes describes some of its bikes as suitable for riders who are 4-foot-10 or taller. It also includes photographs of children as passengers on its bikes. Without being pedaled, the company’s e-bikes can travel 20 miles per hour.
Rad Power Bikes was founded in 2007 by Mike Radenbaugh when he was a high school student in Humboldt County, California. Now headquartered in Seattle, the company has raised more than $300 million from investors, including Fidelity Management & Research, in funding rounds.
U.S. e-bike sales have risen sharply in recent years, to about 804,000 in 2021 from 152,000 in 2016, according to the National Bicycle Dealers Association, an industry trade group. A study published in the peer-reviewed journal Injury Prevention in 2020 found that e-bike users were more likely to require hospitalization after an accident than those using manual bikes. “E-bikes are clearly associated with more serious injuries,” said Dr. Charles DiMaggioprofessor of surgery at New York University Grossman School of Medicine and author of the study.
The Steinsapir family lawsuit also names Giro Sport Design, the maker of the helmet Molly wore. Vista Outdoor, Giro’s parent company, declined to comment.
Even like Ms Steinsapir shared stories and photographs of her daughter on social media since her death, she did not reveal details of the accident. The trial provides a fuller account.
Molly and an 11-year-old friend rode a RadRunner electric bike that belonged to the friend’s 13-year-old sister, according to the lawsuit. The friend rode the bike as Molly rode on a flat rack above her rear wheel, a feature that “invites a passenger to ride in tandem,” according to the complaint.
The two girls rode to the top of a hill they likely couldn’t have climbed without the bike’s power assist, the lawsuit says. After the friend turned around to go back down the hill, the bike “began to quickly pick up speed and it began to shake,” according to the complaint. The friend “applied the rear brake, but the bike did not slow down. She then pulled the front brake, but the motorcycle did not stop and the front wheel began to wobble. She lost control and the girls were thrown away. The lawsuit claims that the Rad Runner’s “disc brakes in conjunction with a quick-release mechanism to detach the front wheel” are “a known safety hazard” in the bicycle industry.
Molly was lying unconscious on the road. The paramedics took her to the hospital, where she underwent several brain operations. She never regained consciousness, the complaint states.
Molly’s father, a lawyer, represented the estate of michael jackson, among other entertainment industry clients. After his daughter’s death, Mr Steinsapir wrote to Mr Radenbaugh, telling him about his daughter and adding that he and his wife, also a lawyer, hoped to avoid prosecution.
“We want to better understand what happened, why and how future tragedies like this can be avoided,” Steinsapir wrote in the letter, which is included in the lawsuit. “We urge you to contact us and seek to have a humane, not legal conversation.” The lawsuit says the company’s response to Mr. Steinsapir’s letter “was not productive.” The family has sought damages to be determined by a jury.
In an interview, Molly’s parents said they felt compelled to try to ensure no other family suffered this kind of loss.
“No amount of money can bring our daughter back,” Ms Steinsapir said. “But we can’t stay silent any longer.”