SANTA CRUZ — The Santa Cruz-based creator of the motorized Onewheel board is facing a new federal class-action lawsuit related to what three plaintiffs refer to as the equipment’s alleged dangerous sudden stop and “nose-dive” defect.
Attorneys for Raymond Wang, of San Mateo, Devon Holt, of La Mesa, and Jerrod Hunter Nichols, of Edgewater, Florida, filed the suit Sept. 9 in U.S. District Court, Northern District in San Jose. The plaintiffs are seeking an undetermined amount of damages, as decided by jury trial. The complaint details the plaintiffs’ injuries, including being thrown into the street and experiencing scrapes, bruising, a separated shoulder AC joint and a broken arm.
“In the course of Defendant’s business, it willfully failed to disclose and actively concealed that the Onewheel electronic skateboard is prone to sudden stopping or nose-diving, which can cause the rider to be catapulted into the air without warning,” the plaintiffs’ filing states. “Particularly in light of Defendant’s advertising campaign, a reasonable American consumer would expect the Onewheel electronic skateboard to function smoothly and safely, without a Nose-Dive Defect.”
The Onewheel is a self-balancing electronic board with a single large center wheel encasing a battery-powered hub. Onewheel manufacturer Future Motion Inc., led by CEO Kyle Doerksen, relocated to Santa Cruz’s Westside industrial area from Mountain View in 2015. Future Motion, now employing about 50 people at its Shaffer Road headquarters, offers several Onewheel models ranging in cost from $1,050 for its most compact “pint” model to the full-sized $2,200 GT model. The boards also range in distance from 6 to 32 battery-powered miles, depending on the model, according to the company’s website.
As described on Future Motion’s website, Onewheel’s models include a “pushback” feature, a warning that causes the nose of the board to lift and slow the rider down by leaning backward. Situations where the feature is engaged can occur when riders attempt to go too fast, descend a very steep hill or ride with a low battery. The “push back” feature can be overridden by users at their own risk and is a function that is defined by a number of parameters including but not limited to battery percentage, grade of terrain, speed, tire pressure and rider weight, according to a Onewheel tutorial.
The latest lawsuit is not the first the company has faced since its 2013 founding, Doerksen said. He added that it was “interesting and exciting being an innovator and bringing this new sport into the world.”
“We have not had a judgment against us in any case,” Doerksen told the Sentinel. “We are creating a new board sport here in Santa Cruz and unfortunately, in any board sport, people can fall off and they can get hurt. Because it’s new, people are trying to figure out what is their responsibility and what the product is supposed to be able to do.”
As to the class action lawsuit, Doerksen said he did not expect it to gain traction.
“We’re still reviewing and investigating the case but we don’t believe that it has any merit,” Doerksen said. “We anticipate bringing a motion to dismiss the case and expect to prevail on the motion, or at trial.”