Wrongful Death Lawsuit Claims Harley-Davidson Throttle Defective

feature photo

By: Staff Writers | Published: March 25th, 2010

A wrongful death lawsuit has been filed in Texas, alleging that a malfunctioning electronic throttle on a Harley-Davidson motorcycle caused a fatal accident in 2008.

The Harley-Davidson lawsuit was filed in Tarrant County court by Cindy DeBartolo, whose husband, John, was killed on March 24, 2008 when he lost control of his 2008 FLHX Harley-Davidson days after repairs were supposedly made to address problems with the throttle. Cindy DeBartolo was also riding on the bike at the time of the crash and sustained serious injuries in the motorcycle accident as well.

According to the complaint, the electronic throttle malfunctioned on the motorcycle just a week after John DeBartolo purchased the Harley-Davidson bike on March 15, 2008 from Longhorn Harley-Davidson in Grand Prarie, Texas. He took the motorcycle back to the dealership for repair, and it was returned to him on March 22. The motorcycle accident lawsuit alleges that couple was riding the bike two days later when the electronic throttle failed again, causing the fatal crash.

Harley-Davidson Motor Company, Inc. and LHD Partners L.P., doing business as Longhorn Harley-Davidson, are named as defendants in the lawsuit. DeBartolo alleges that the motorcycle was defectively manufactured and unreasonably dangerous, and that the dealership failed to properly repair the electronic throttle.

In December 2009, Harley-Davidson issued an unrelated recall for more than 111,000 family touring motorcycles due to fuel tanks that could leak or catch fire after a crash. The Harley-Davidson motorcycle recall affects 22 different models of 2009 and 2010 Harley-Davidson Touring, CVO and Trike motorcycles, which were manufactured between June 6, 2008 and November 19, 2009.

Photo Attribute: http://www.flickr.com/photos/rbitting/ / CC BY 2.0

Tags: , , ,

There Are 38 Comments So Far • (Add Your Comments)

  1. keep it simple, throttle cables have been around for a hundred years or so. with little maintence they work just fine. personally i like the dual cable system, its hard to beat. i wonder why the rider with the throttle malfunction didn”t use the kill switch when he had problems? god bless him.

  2. Are you kidding..the crazies are coming out of the weeds. First Toyota now Harley-Davidson. I am sure all you blood suckers will jump on this!

  3. This is my opinion:
    It’s the riders responsibility to know what to do in an emergency situation. Anything mechanical can fail at any time. It’s a risk everyone is responsible to take. There is nothing perfect in this world. The only thing Harley Davidson is at fault for is employing human beings and manufacturing machines. These people must be Toyota owners, too.

  4. I feel for anyone losing a loved one. I also own a 2008 ultra classic and I have had my Harley back to the dealer 3 times for faulty throttle. I wish Harley had stayed with the cable system. The only way I can keep way to keep my throttle from malfuntioning, is not to use my cruse on my bike. I have owned several Harleys, and the throttle is a big diapointment. I will own Harleys as long as they are american owned.

  5. being in the auto and cylce repair field, nothing mechanical or electronic is 100% risk free.yes my heart goes out to those ever having misfortune,but letting your guard down on basic safety skills when riding or driving is not always to blame on someone else. there are failsafes to be an option in these situations. plus the fact what other condtions were involved, going to fast,not paying attention,no helmet,drinking? HAVE SEEN IT ALL. lets give the motor company and all others a break in this sue happy world!!!!!!

  6. d.thomas, its people like you that should blow it. The person John DeBartolo (Hammer) MY BROTHER was my best friend and now gone. Because he trusted in (well known Harley Davidson) for there products and services, this is not a case of Toyota. His DEATH was caused by a product not tested enough before market you ***. You think that Cindy, his daughter,granchild and mother should not file wrongful suite. His wife has not only lost her Husband but her health and her house Because of The function and service of the bike and Harley Davidson….He never got to see his first grandchild and now his second. It happend in 2008 and still to this day don’t go by without thinking if the F**king people done there job correctly my best friend, my brother would still be alive. It’s ignorant people like you that it should have happen to not my brother. Heartless fuck!!!!!!!!!!!

  7. I agree with TATS..If your oven leaked gas and blew up killing your kids u would be crying about how the oven company should pay u 10 million for your loss, but because its Harley at fault all you fucking sheep say its not Harleys fault ect,,Bullshit…Harley has been getting buy on its name for the last 30 years and counting on you mindless Harley sheep to keep them in business, how many bikes do these assholes recall year after year, why is every police dept buying Honda and bmw instead of Harley? Cause its a weak product and almost at the end of its rope thanks to Victory and other WELL BUILT BIKES,,

  8. Hit the clutch if there is a throttle malfunction… if you don’t have the proper reflexes to do this you weren’t suited to be operating a motorcycle in the first place.

  9. I also am experiencing the throttle loss issue, it has happened to me 4 times, and the ECM, then the TPSensor then some connector and pins and it is still happening, I was almost hit on two of the occasions by big rigs as I attempted to coast to the side of the freeway from the car pool lane. The dealer, manufacturer knows the issue exsits and continues to return the motorcycle to the owners knowing they are guessing as to the resolution. This is where the suit these people have makes sense, I agree if you cant ride and make descisions thats on you, but when the company/dealer returns you bike using you as a test dummy to hope they fixed a problem well that’s neglegence. Claiming this person is like the blood sucketrs jumping on the Toyota bandwagon is wrong and Thomas and Bob you are aholes are what’s wrong with the world. I also do not promote continues attitides of sue em, but this is not that and if you would pay attention and if you actually ride as you indicate you are so masterful at you would understand this and support them as real bikers or riders are and will do.

  10. Harley has some major issues right now. They denied the “wobbles” caused by their pre 09 frame, then “invented” a new frame, claiming it was so they could build their trikes. The 110 Screamin’ eagle motors had and still have major issues with the rear cylinder. The electronic throttle control is just another example. We have our own disagreement going on right now over parts FALLING OFF a Screamin Eagle Ultra, which HD claims is not their fault. (30 grand and pieces BREAK and FALL OFF. We are also looking to sell the SEUC and buy something from a responsible and forthright company, which HD apparently no longer aspires to be. They even refuse to accept responsibility for several deaths.How callous! (although the Chicago Firefighter was finally awarded some money in a recent settlement after time in court)
    Damn straight, if your gas oven killed your family, or you were poisoned by a food source, you would expect consideration. Pulling in the clutch lever or hitting the kill switch might have saved a life, just as never going over 60 mph might save you from Harley’s famous “wobble” but to knowingly ignore a problem that has so much attention and deny claims to those affected is costing HD customers. The reputation is tarnished and rightfully so.
    They deserve the sudden decline in stock and sales. In this case, they are more at fault than the economy.
    AND my 49 Pan might have had some problems too, but they were easily fixed, and no one died.

  11. Harley Davidson do not build motorcycles, they build an image and a
    lifestyle based on the bad boy outlaw. The antique mechanical contraptions they build are low tech, unrelaible, over wieight pieces
    of overpriced falling apart junk. I amazes me how they have managed
    to foist off this crap for so many years. I know that Americans are very patriotic and support thier own manufacturers but come on people, most of the current Harley parts come from Japan or Italy these days and you certainly are not getting good value for your money. Harley has become anther faceless corporation chasing profit and their current customers are just fodder for the grist mill.

  12. bob you think you can stop a desaster while it’s striking? you’ve got your wife your life you think john did’nt try as fast as possible not to do anything he could? GET REAL

  13. I have experence my first throttle loss issue today Aug. 08, 2011, and have made arrangement today with Harley-Davidson dealer for diagnostechs tomorrow. Lets see what happens.

  14. I am the third owner of a 2008 flxh street glide and started noticing an eratic idle at @ 12000 miles, and did not think of it much as i was having overheating problems also. At @ 17000 miles my engine service light would come on and i would loose my cruise control function. This happened infrequently and restarting the bike would erase the engine light and my cruise would work. At @ 27000 miles i was getting spikes in my throtle on warm up and starting off in 1st gear. These were light spikes to @ 1500 rpm. but now it has gotten worse and have had spikes up to 3500 rpms
    All my diagnostic codes were 1510 (throtle actuator-limited performance, 2127 (twist grip sensor Low/open and 2138 twist grip sensor corrilation. I had replaced the twist grip sensor as an attempt to an easy fix but no results. I had checked every connection and greased them all. As a last resort i sent my bike to
    my local H.D dealer, explaining the situation and codes which they themselves diagnosed and they installed and new ECM for $670.00 and the problem still exists. My other frustration was trying to order a new induction moduel with throtle actuator. This only could be done thru the service dept. after they performed certain tests on my dime? Called H.D. customer service and explained my situation. “Bike is not under warrenty” They gave me a Reference number to give to the H.D. service rep to order me a new unit. I believe it will solve my problem. I did not want to try the pin rebuilding kit.. New induction module @ 220.00. Screaming Eagle @440.00.
    It’s been @ 2 weeks since the paper work was submitted to H.D.
    It seems the Pins in the induction module get worn from the heat and vibration. Now the bike will spike while riding in third, using @ a quarter throtle @ 35 m.p.h in third gear. I’m not sure if the new unit will fix my problem but i can replace parts as good as H.D. and maybe not as many chasing mysteries. i did not need a new ECM. Happy trails to ya!

  15. I have an 09 FLHX that is sitting in my garage that Harley can’t fix. They tell me the same about about turning it off 4 times and it will reset. To me it’s not worth the risk. The dealers are aware of the issue, but Milwaukee says that they don’t know a thing about it. I tried resloving it with Harley first, but now attorney is taking care of it. It would have been a lot cheaper for Harley to get me out of it before my attorney was involved…. but whatever. Now they can pay me and my attorney another 40k. My thoughts and prayers go out to those who have lost a loved one to this issue.

  16. I am also having a throttle loss issue. The first time it happened was during my trip to Key West from the Ft. Lauderdale area and I was scared shitless (9/17/11). I was riding in a pack and the person behind me almost hit me—imagine if it was a semi not paying attention!!! I was doing the speed limit, the motor was still running, and the throttle was gone… It happened twice during this trip (same day) and I was able to safely pull over to the side of the road but I can’t imagine what could have happened if it was dark, no road lights, and no shoulder.

    It happened twice again yesterday and I never regained throttle. My bike has been in the shop for two days now and I have to tell that I have lost confidence in this bike. After reading all of the posts, I can’t say that purchasing a new Harley is going to fix it. What is the solution here? Is there no ONE that can identify, isolate, and provide a permanent fix?

    I am a very disappointed Harley owner…

  17. Harley CEO Keith Wandell made 6.4 Million US Dollars in 2010. In the last 2 years 4 Thousand American HARLEY Employees have LOST their Jobs under Wandels’s Closing of American Factories While Relocating NEW HARLEY Factories to BRAZIL SINGAPORE THAILAND INDIA AND CHINA! Besides A FEDERAL CLASS ACTION LAWSUIT IN CALIFORNIA MOVING FWD AGAINST HARLEY MOTORCYCLES SEVERELY BURNING HARLEY OWNERS AUG. 2011. Also in 2011, HARLEY STEALS THE MARLON “BRANDO” Name without paying the licensing fee to Brando Estate. Upcoming Court Case 2011 Harley accused of Also STEALING A Clothing Line for Women From AMERICAN ARTIST JACK ARMSTRONG. Armstrong presented the cosmic clothing line to Harley Reps and also created the “COSMIC HARLEY”- V-ROD
    Motorcycle In 2010. IN 2011 HARLEY ANNOUNCED THEIR NEW LINE OF COMIC CLOTHING WITHOUT ANY MENTION OF ARTIST JACK ARMSTRONG OR HIS DESIGNS. A CORPORATION LIKE HARLEY ACCUSED OF KILLING OWNERS OF THEIR MOTORCYCLES SIMPLY BECAUSE HARLEY WILL NOT ADMIT THE FLAWS IN THEIR PRODUCT. CEO WANDELL’S FIRING OF AMERICAN WORKERS AND MOVING AMERICAN FACTORIES OFFSHORE WHILE RECEIVING MILLIONS IN PAY SAY’S THAT THIS COMPANY IS “OUT OF CONTROL”! HOW CAN HARLEY JUSTIFY THIS CORPORATE BEHAVIOR TO THE AMERICAN PUBLIC AND SHAREHOLDERS. And NOW THIS FIVE BILLION $ Company is STEALING ARTIST’S IDEAS AND USING FAMOUS NAMES, ‘THEY DON’T HAVE DEALS WITH’…FIRE THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS AND HARLEY CEO WANDELL. The THOUSANDS OF HARLEY OWNERS INJURED AND FORMER EMPLOYEES FIRED SO HARLEY CAN MOVE OVERSEAS HAS SHOWN AMERICA THE PATTERN OF CORPORATE CULTURE NOW OPERATING AS: “BUSINESS AS USUAL AT HARLEY- DAVIDSON USA”.

  18. I had a similar problem with the ETC sticking and not decelerating at a low speed on a hairpin turn.

  19. hey im a ceppohr nut,but the goldwing is a DAMB GOOD machine! mile after mile of problem free riding. Not my style of sled but ya cant knock em!

  20. Hey, enough with the agenda’s. Companies provide jobs. Your jobs pay the taxes that provide government servants their pay checks. I love Harley the corporation and Harley the motorcycle. I hit a deer doing 60mph on my 2008 Screaming Eagle Ultra Classic and the bike saved my life. Only $19,957 dollars worth of damage, plus a dead deer. I walked away. In fact, I drove the bashed up machine home another 125 miles with my blood and deer blood and parts hanging off. I love this bike so much, I plan on buying back the salvage and fixing it up. I don’t want to ride anything else. Can I sue the people seeking 10 million for weakening a company that should be spending those resources on improving upon an already great product?

  21. Also having throttle problems, mine has gone out 12 times 6 in one day. the 12th time was on freeway and was nearly run by semi-truck! El Cajon Harley Davidson seems to be ignorant to this problem and some of the bikes have more problems than others! Instead bending over backwards to get you screaming deal on a new bike they just want you to start all over with payments on a new one! BULLSHIT!!!!. How many people have to die or be maimed! Harley has one of the most recognizable logos in the world and they will not stand behind what they sell! I myself do not feel comfortable on my 2009 ultra classic any longer and basiclly wanted them to swap it out and add the sales tax to my loan! The only consession Brett (dealer operator) would make was they he would eat the $1200.00 for the ABS system! By the time he was done bending me over I knew what ABS meant (angry butt sex). I apologize for being graphic but i’m f-ing pissed off.

  22. I have also have been haveing the same problem with my 2008 FLXH. I was on I10 when the throttle went out, I was in the #1 lane and had to move to the right side of the highway, as i was moving over a semi-truck was entering causing him to almost hit me. Everytime it heat up the throttle would shut down

  23. If you know how to drive ,then you must know how to repair the thing that you’re driving. Unless you know the basics then you could just repair the thing yourself,but if you don’t trust yourself in repairing the mobile then better go to the manufacturing company for they offer services especially if it’s still in it’s warranty and service period. Like the Nissan ,they offer 1 year free of charge in some of there services. I don’t know what Harley has to offer but that’d be the best solution to it.

  24. 09 cvo road glide.40grand pile of junk. Back to dealer 14 times in 3years. Victory here i come!

  25. I had same problem with throttle limped to harley dealer thinking it might be a fuse or something and they told me it might not happen again but if it does 70 % of the time its the throttle body and it will cost $2000 to repair I have a 2009 Road King after reading comments i guess they are trying to screw me

  26. I HAVE A 2008 FLHX THAT HAS LOST THE THROTTLE AT LEAST A 100 HUNDRED TIMES. HAD IT BACK TO DEALER UNDER WARRANTY TWICE IT STILL NOT FIXED OUT OF WARRANTY NOW. i LOVE THIS BIKE BUT CMON THIS IS CRAZY. I OSE THROTTLE ALL THE TIME AT ANY SPEED ANY TIME, SHUT IT OFF RESTART COMES BACK ON MY WAY I HATE IT. HOPE FULLY MY WIFE WILL SUE WHEN IM GONE.

  27. I have 09 ultra and had throttle problems last year two to three times. A couple of times this past summer of 2011 and just today it went into the ETC Power management mode and I was able to crawl home about a mile. I have told local dealer about problem and they said they checked it and did not find anything. I had no idea so many people are having this issue. WoW, for so many to have this issue HD is starting to sound like Ford Motor company. They ended up losing a class action lawsuit with their 1999 Windstar van with transmition problems, a chronic issue with one model year van. Sounds Like HD is following suit and choosing to ingnore. I will give them every opportunity to remedy before any lawsuit. Now that I know what happens UNLESS IN HEAVY TRAFFIC IN FAST LANE of I-94 in NW Indiana then your screwed. Unbelieveable!

  28. I own a 1998 Heritage Softail Classic and over the years have lost my throttle on the highway. Very dangerous if your in the middle through lanes trying to coast off to the side of the highway. My bike sits in my garage most of the time. Had it repaired by Harley numerous times and the same problem continues. Harley sucks… Victory here I come.

  29. Would like to give you my two cents…. I purchased a 2011 ultra. Two weeks later Im on the road in the rockies. Thottle went out almost got killed by a semi.. I talked to my harley dealer, he blew me off
    The next year, I m on my way to Points south.. Stopped in biloxi, miss., throttle went out again.. this time the bike wouldnt start. The harley dealer said they fixed it
    This year I m on the road, throttle went out again.. This time, I lost all trust in my bike. Frankly,i loved my harley… dont like the greedy dealerships and Harley corp, who have branded the damn name so well they forgot their customer needs. We need a sound bike at a reasonable price…. My bike msrp was 24500 obviously I didnt pay that price, but damn close.
    Yesterday, reluctantly I purchased a Victory cross country, thousands less, bigger engine , nice looking bike .
    I am having harley withdraw but I am in a better place. dont have to worry about the throttle body,ecm, pins or whatever.
    I have had 5 harleys over the past 13 years and each one had its own problem .. never again

  30. I own a 2009 Ultra Classic, I bought new. I have had my bike break down 5 times with throttle problems, pins replaced, dielectric grease applied one time and two twist grip position sensors. The throttle goes into limp mode, can’t go faster than 25 miles an hour. It happened twice in the middle and fast lane of the PA turnpike and once on I 95 going into philadelphia, talk about being scary when you have to fight your wayto the shoulder of the highway. This is the last fix, next time I am buying a Kawasaki touring bike or a Victory, I don’t trust this bike anymore. I love harleys but something is going wrong lately, quality is going down the tubes. It seems to be their electronics. engine and transmission are ok. Fire your electronics supplier.

  31. Had smae issue, bike going into “limp mode”. Happened 3 times on 90 in NY, bout shut down interstate trying to get over. Found out it was connecot pins in throttle body, the harness hanging right behind air cleaner cover. Unplugged and plgged back in and made it back to Cleveland w no more prob. Had it repinned and is good to go. Dealership admitted they were aware of problem.

  32. Just bought an 08 Road Glide in November of 2012. Sure wish I had investigated these forums before I bought it. Same shit happening to me now. Throttle went into limp mode on freeway on the way to Arkansas from Texas. I have pulled it all apart and cleaned, greased and prayed over it. Engine light keeps coming on with same codes. Runs hotter than hell also. Installed nightrider xied\’s for the heat. Sure miss my 03 Road King. Newer isn\’t always better.

  33. Lets see. You are merging onto the freeway where heavy traffic is running 70 mph. There are several vehicles behind you also entering the freeway. As you are accelerating and moving left into the space between vehicles your bike suddenly and without warning drops down into limp mode. Oh sh%t.

    Traffic behind you are not even looking at you any more. They are accelerating and looking for a merge opportunity. Traffic on the freeway has to slam on their brakes to try and keep from running you over. Unless you are very lucky the traffic also merging just slams into you.

    How is this not a dangerous situation? How would pulling the clutch lever help? How is an engine suddenly going to idle when pulling out into any kind of traffic not a bad thing? How frequently would it be ok for this to happen to you? Motorcycle riding is exciting but this is not what I had in mind.

  34. I have a 2011 ultra classic cvo throttle started shutting off at 24000 miles has only done this one time. But now with only 34000 miles my engine is blown all scheduled maintenance has been performed on bike. I have heard of three cases of this happening. After looking at all the complaints on screamin eagles why dont they see there is a problem with engine and or harley

  35. as you can see by my e-mail I use to ride a KAW but like millions of other people I had to have a Harley. I have a 2009 ultra classic 28000 miles and my throttle has gone in to limp mode more than dozen times. 6 times in 1 day and I almost didn’t make it home. I don’t have the money to put it in the shop, can someone out there tell me how to fix this problem.

  36. I have an 011 flrtu. Nothing but trouble with the TBW. First three times, uncommanded full throttle. Luckily was able to pull in the clutch. The last eight issues were complete loss of throttle, nothing above idle. Dealer has replaced everything but the throttle body. No throttle is worse than full throttle. If you’re pulling through in intersection, passing a vehicle etc….and loss throttle, there is nothing you can except hope the cater behind you is paying attention. The tbw is simply unsafe. My dealer has done all my repairs at no charge. They are replacing the throttle body this week. We will see what happens , but honestly doubt I will ever be able to ride it without wondering what the throttle is going to do next

  37. Have a 2010 Ultra bought new in 4/18/10. First time the throttle went out was10/01/11 with10130 miles. Dealer checked codes and released bike. Cleaned connector.This was in St. Augustine,Fl.2nd time was in Fort Smith, Ar. at dealer on7/05/12, 22798 miles.Replaced twist grip sensor. 3rd. time in St. Augustine, Fl on 4/20/13, 30918 miles. Changed twist grip sensor. 4th time was in Roanoke Rapids, N.C. on 7/30/13, 35783 miles. Replaced sock et terminals. And now the last time was on 12/29/13 with 41349 in St. Augustine, Fl. Have not gone to the dealer yet. all times i was on the rode or highway. luckily all time i was in the outside lane, and just had to move over to the shoulder. I am really getting disgusted with this problem. About ready to get a lawyer. Will stay with a Harley.

  38. So has anyone actually fixed his problem? Having the same issues with my 09 classic w/39k mi. Replaced the grip sensor, connectors, done the cleaning of the pins and dielectric greased the whole mess. Still shuts down about 3 times a week. Surely someone has fixed it right. Anyone know if we can engineer these back to using throttle cables again?

  39. Had the same with a 2011 flhx. Of course it is just out of warranty. In limp mode. will not clear the codes at all. As soon as i start it if it starts check engine light comes on and no throttle. 20000 miles on the bike. 2000 miles on a stage 4 rebuild. bike has been at harley for 3 weeks and they still cant find the problem. They claim to have called the MOCO and tech services but they still have no clue whats wrong. What the hell are these codes good for then?? Cant wait to get a 3 week labor bill. And after reading all these threads i dont have faith in my bike and when i do get it back when will it happen again….

  40. I own a 2009 road king classic this bike has had troubles right from day one.Spring of 2013 will riding my bike went into limp mode.Took dealer 3 weeks to figure it out.The circuit board fried in the throttle body and the did know why.They checked all wiring ect.The error codes for this or P1511 and P2107.After the repair it ran good I thought maybe every thing well be ok now but this spring april 20 2014 guess what out for my first ride of the year was ridding for about an hour almost back home and limp mode!! I checked the error codes when i got home and yet again P1511 and P2107. Now its going to cost me more money another new throttle body.I cant trust this bike I don’t know what to do with it.Fix it then sell it i guess and lose a pile of money.If i had know about this I would have never bought this Harley ever run BIKE!!

Post Your Comments

  • Have Your Comments Reviewed by a Lawyer

    Provide additional contact information if you want an attorney to review your comments and contact you about a potential case. This information will not be published and will be confidential.
  • NOTE: Providing information for review by an attorney does not form an attorney-client relationship.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.