Man Loses Appeal of Lawsuit over 20-Month Erection from Motorcycle Ride

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

A Sausalito man who claimed a four-hour motorcycle ride in May 2010 caused him to have a painful, persistent erection for 20 months lost an appeal in state court to keep alive his lawsuit against BMW of North America and the manufacturer of the bike seat.

Henry Wolf claimed in his 2012 suit (pdf) that vibrations from the ridge-like motorcycle seat made by Corbin-Pacific Inc. gave him an acute case of priapism that treatment at Marin General Hospital and by specialists could not relieve. The suit alleged product liability and negligence caused him emotional distress in addition to physical pain.

A three-judge panel of the First District Court of Appeal affirmed a San Francisco County Superior Court decision that dismissed the case. The 14-page ruling did not grapple with any monumental legal issues in deciding the case.

Wolf’s legal pitch “fails to comply with the rules of appellate procedure” by not citing relevant cases or statutes, presiding Judge J. Anthony Kline wrote for the unanimous court. It “contains no intelligible argument.”

The judge also noted that Wolf was not unfamiliar with the affliction. The ruling recounted Wolf’s medical history as told by Dr. Harry Neuwirth: “The patient has a long history of intermittent episodes of priapism. He has never required any treatment, however. He often has prolonged erections however.”

In case Wolf did not catch the court’s annoyance that they had the case before them, the judges assigned him the defense costs of the companies he sued.

Wolf has shown perseverance, if nothing else. His original lawyer, Vernon Lester Bradley, was suspended from the state bar in 2013. Bradley, who died in May, was accused of misappropriating more than $100,000 in client funds for a Tiburon real estate project.

When Superior Court Judge James McBride dismissed the case in March 2014 rather than send it to a jury, he discounted the testimony of Wolf’s key expert witness, Dr. Jonathan Rutchik. The judge said Rutchik’s determination that the erection was related to the motorcycle seat was speculation and struck it from the record.

“He offered no opinion as to the duration of the exposure that caused this damage nor did he offer any opinion as to the latency period between exposure and symptoms,” the judge wrote. “He offered no opinion as to how such damage would cause priapism in general.”

Rutchik cited a document from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health that mostly dealt with hand and arm vibration.

Judge McBride also struck testimony by Dr. Jack McAninch that there was a connection between the seat vibration and the priapism, although he let stand the doctor’s affirmation of the erection.

–Ken Broder


To Learn More:

Sausalito Man Loses Appellate Ruling in Motorcycle Erection Lawsuit (by Gary Klien, Marin Independent Journal)

BMW Erection Case Ejected (by Mark Hinchliffe, Motorbike Writer)

Motorcycle Rider Can’t Blame BMW for Erection, Judge Finds (by Greg Ryan, Law 360)

Uneasy Rider Sues BMW (by Dave Tartre, Courthouse News Service)

Henry Wolf v. BMW North America (California Court of Appeal First Appellate District)

Leave a comment