PHOENIX (Aug. 18, 2009)—A judge of the Arizona Court of Appeals has reversed a lower court and ruled that a product liability case involving Continental Tire North America Inc. may be tried in Arizona, instead of Mexico as Conti wanted.
Maria Pozo Parra, a Mexican citizen but a resident of Yuma County, Ariz., was driving in Sonora, Mexico, when a Conti tire on her 2003 Ford Expedition allegedly suffered a tread separation. Pozo Parra's mother and one of her daughters were killed in the resulting crash, while Pozo Parra herself, her aunt and another daughter were injured.
Pozo Parra sued Conti and Bill Alexander Automotive Center Inc. in Maricopa County, Ariz., Superior Court, seeking damages for personal injury and wrongful death. Conti appealed on behalf of itself and the other defendant, claiming Pozo Parra had only a tenuous connection to Arizona and that Mexico would be a more convenient venue for the trial. The superior court judge agreed and ruled in Conti's favor.
Appeals Court Judge Diane Johnsen, however, ruled that Conti hadn't presented sufficient evidence to override Pozo Parra's desire to have the trial in Arizona.
As a resident alien, Pozo Parra is entitled to the same consideration before the courts as a citizen, Johnsen ruled. Under the Hague Convention, Conti has the right to depose Mexican police and medical personnel, as well as the owner of the Mexican tire shop where Pozo Parra had her tires checked just before the accident, she said.
“On the other hand, the tire is located in Arizona and the witnesses whose testimony is likely to be more material to the key issues in the case—plaintiffs and the multitude of witnesses, lay and expert, who will testify about the design and manufacture of the tire—presumably would be available to testify in person in an Arizona court,” Johnsen said.
“The appeals court looked at the facts, applied the law and made the right ruling,” said Michael E. Medina Jr., one of Pozo Parra's attorneys. Medina said Conti has until Aug. 27 to appeal to the Arizona Supreme Court.
Matthew D. Kleifield, lead attorney for Conti, could not immediately be reached for comment.