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As San Francisco trial lawyer Mark Webb prepared for one client’s suit alleging Wal-Mart and another company sold a dangerous bicycle, he tracked down a number of witnesses to testify about their experiences with bikes also purchased from the Arkansas-based chain. Though he said he’s “not at liberty” to discuss details of the first case, which eventually settled, Webb still found a way to tell the witnesses’ stories: He turned them into clients, signing them up for a new suit against the giant retailer and two other defendants. The case pits the solo against defense lawyers at San Francisco’s Gordon & Rees and Phillips, Spallas & Angstadt, as well as Dallas-based Gardere Wynne Sewell. Webb asserts that the 10 plaintiffs, all boys, were seriously injured when the quick-release front wheel of their Wal-Mart-bought bikes suddenly detached. “When a wheel comes off a bike and you’re going 10 or 15 miles an hour, right away the bike stops down to zero, but you keep going, right over the handlebars and onto your face,” he said. The suit alleges that the bikes were assembled by “untrained, minimum-wage employees” and usually sold without a manual warning how to avoid accidents caused by loose wheels. Wal-Mart officials and one of its lawyers did not return calls seeking comment. The two other defendants — Dynacraft Industries, which allegedly imported the bicycles, and Carl Warren & Co., which allegedly handled the accident claims — declined to comment on the litigation through one of their lawyers, Gordon & Rees partner Fletcher Alford. But clearly, one of their strategies is to get some plaintiffs thrown out of court. In a demurrer that a Marin County Superior Court judge is expected to rule on soon, Dynacraft and Carl Warren & Co. argue that two of the boys previously reached settlements that released the companies from further liability. And, they added, they plan to make similar arguments against another four plaintiffs at the summary judgment stage. Webb has countered that his clients were misled into settling, an accusation that Dynacraft and Carl Warren have vehemently denied.

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