Harley-Davidson is being sued over its models’ infamous 'Death Wobble'

A man in North Carolina has launched a lawsuit arguing the infamous 'Death Wobble' is a dangerous flaw in the design of some Harley-Davidson models

2003 Harley-Davidson Electra Glide

Harley-Davidson is facing a lawsuit from a North Carolina man who claims model design flaws that lead to a so-called ‘Death Wobble’ caused him to crash and sustain serious injuries.

William ‘Alex’ Rouse says a loss of stability on his father’s 1999 Electra Glide Classic in April 2018 caused him to lose control, come off the road and be thrown from the motorcycle. He says the wreck left him seriously injured and almost lose consciousness.

He claims a design flaw on the Electra Glide is to blame for him crashing, citing the well documented issues known as the ‘Death Wobble’ (otherwise known as ‘tankslapper’) that is fundamentally caused by the motorcycle and not the rider.

The ‘Death Wobble’ is not a new term and has been attributed to a number of incidents involving all manner of larger motorcycles where the higher kerbweights and ballast distribution can lead to some uncomfortable moments when momentum something gets the better of you in all manner of circumstances.

However, Rouse believes this is a problem of the design on the Harley-Davidson Electra Glide [2003 model pictured] (and Road King and Dyna models) that shouldn’t occur off the production line, though it’s worth noting technology to prevent such an issue has come a long way since his 1999 motorcycle was built.

Even so, Rouse arguably faces a difficult task in proving the flaw is fundamental since there are number of mitigating factors that could play their part in an accident of this nature.

As RideApart points out, speed, tyre pressures and uneven weight distribution can place the onus on the rider in the moment of an accident.

Moreover, while ‘Death Wobbles’ aren’t exactly unheard of in the industry to indicate at a wider issue, Harley-Davidsons in particular are often fettled with and customised for personalisation. Changes to anything from swingarm to dampers that has deviated away from Harley-Davidson’s own aftermarket programme could ultimately alter the characteristics of its performance.

However, Rouse is going with the argument that previous accidents of this nature have been rife in this model range, saying ‘this type of motorcycle is known to have a propensity to develop a ‘wobble’ or a ‘weave’ at normal speeds’.

While Mr Rouse may have a tough job on his hands to take the fight to H-D, any success in the case could set a wide-ranging precedent on any future claims.