Probably. If the incident was significantly caused due to poor maintenance of the motorcycle which caused it to be running rough and which contributed to the tip over, you can raise this matter as an affirmative defense.
Mr. Lundeen is licensed to practice law in Florida and Vermont. The response herein is not legal advice and does not create an attorney/client relationship. The response is in the form of legal education and is intended to provide general information about the matter within the question. Oftentimes the question does not include significant and important facts and timelines that, if known, could significantly change the reply and make it unsuitable. Mr. Lundeen strongly advises the questioner to confer with an attorney in your state in order to insure proper advice is received.
It will be up to the trier of fact in small claims court as to whether this was your fault or the owner's fault or some combination of both of your faults. This determination will be made based on any evidence presented/allowed. So if you believe you have a defense, you need to plead it in your Answer to the Complaint and have facts/evidence/tests/exhibits to prove same.
Depending on the amount of the claim, it may well be better to settle same for a "compromise" amount; rather than pay to defend same; but, of course, that decision is up to you and purely an economic one.
The short answer is yes you can be held liable for the repair costs if the trier of facts determines that you were negligent in the operation of the motorcycle and that negligence was the proximate cause of the damage done to the motorcycle. It is also possible that the owner of the motorcycle could also be held liable or partially liable for not warning you that the motorcycle was running poorly and could be hard to handle. It appears that this may be the case where both parties may be a fault and it will be up to the trier of facts to sort it out and determine the amount of liability of each party.
Most likely he will prevail. What type of maintenance issues are you claiming? That could be a defense if they are significant issues, say the brakes did not work, or the front tire was unusually low and you did not know. If you are claiming the engine just ran rough or something along those lines I think most judges would not consider that as enough to claim it was not your fault.
One other issue you may want to raise in your defense, are you an inexperienced rider and did the owner know that and still let you ride it, you could argue negligent entrustment or if the owner showed you how to ride it and did not warn you of some serious issues that is a defense as well.
Good thing for you is that small claims court is not that formal and the rules of evidence do not apply for the most part, so add as much as you can and the judge will at least hear it and hopefully consider it in his ruling.
No- It's your fault. Bikes fall over all the time. I wouldn't bother with small claims or all that affirmative defense legal mumbo jumbo stuff.
Just pay for the repairs, say you are sorry and move on.
Your friendship will be stronger.
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