Tire defect ends life of motorcycle enthusiast

Stephen Gageby, 52, president of the local Harley Davidson Motorcycle Club, and his wife, Karla, 47, were on their way to a son’s birthday party May 8, 2007, using their favorite mode of transportation: Stephen’s 2003 Harley Davidson Ultra Classic. The weather around Butte, Montana, was sunny and clear and Interstate 90, with its miles of straight-aways and open vistas, beckoned. They climbed on for what would be their last ride together.

As the Gagebys neared Missoula, witnesses later told police they saw the rear tire of the motorcycle fail, sending the bike careening out of control and crashing onto the pavement. Both Stephen and Karla were ejected about 140 feet. Stephen suffered massive, fatal head injuries. Karla sustained serious, permanent injuries.

This tragedy originated from a product defect, in this case a Goodyear Dunlop D402. Like passenger tires, motorcycle tires are susceptible to manufacturing defects and tire failures. Unlike a passenger car however, a motorcycle is much more likely to suffer a loss of control should a tire fail. Severe injuries are almost a certainty in these types of accidents. The failure of the tire was a result of a defect in the bead seat area of the tire that allowed excessive leakage of air, according to the suit. The suit was settled for a confidential amount.