A recent series of court cases provides a good example of why tire companies as a group are so determined to get laws passed to limit product liability litigation.
The first is a settlement by Goodyear of a lawsuit the company lost and was appealing to the Mississippi Su-preme Court. The case was about a driver who was killed and two passengers injured in an accident caused by a tire blowout on a Camaro Z29.
The tire was within warranty and speed-rated to 112 mph, the court declared. That swayed the jury, instead of the facts that the driver's blood-alcohol content was triple the legal limit, the car was traveling at 92 mph, none of the car's occupants was wearing a seat belt, and a Goodyear expert witness stated the tire had a puncture.
A jury in a motor home accident in Florida also ruled against Goodyear. A front tire separated, and driver lost control and three people were seriously injured.
The plaintiffs' lawyers argued the tire wasn't good enough to use on the motor home, and perhaps that's what convinced the jury to vote against the company. They didn't consider several facts to take precedence: the driver didn't hook up supplemental brakes on a vehicle he was towing, he ignored a vibration in the steering wheel and—figure this one out—he was getting out of the driver's seat while the motor home was traveling at highway speeds, according to Goodyear.
Also in Florida, Cooper Tire is a defendant in a recently filed lawsuit over a tragic Ford Explorer rollover accident that killed four teenagers and injured four others. The plaintiffs claim tread separation on a Cooper tire caused the driver to lose control.
Among the facts in the case: There were nine passengers crammed into the five-passenger Explorer, and only the 16-year-old driver—who is facing charges for driving without a license—was wearing a seat belt.
Is Cooper the bad guy on this, or Ford, or the tire and auto dealers who also are defendants? This case is in South Florida, renown for its plaintiff-friendly juries in product liability cases. Cooper will need some good lawyering.
Cooper won't need the two lawyers who handled a motorcycle tire case in Illinois for Goodyear. The attorneys for Goodyear and Dunlop Tires couldn't convince a judge of the company's lack of culpability, and the defendants settled.
A tire on the bike deflated and caused the accident. The extenuating circumstances: the bike was overweighted, carrying luggage and two people who each weighed more than 260 pounds; a friend warned them she smelled burning rubber and their rear tire was deflated; and the couple wore plastic helmets that weren't DOT-approved, and actually carried a warning they were novelty, not safety, items.
Goodyear/Dunlop is suing their lawyers for incompetence.