WASHINGTON—Litigation, as always, was either a major headache or a large benefit for tire and rubber companies in 2017, depending on the case.
In some cases, tire- and rubber-related corporations found themselves facing massive liability or even bankruptcy because of lawsuits. In others, they won victories in cases involving patent infringement and other issues.
The U.S. Department of Justice played prominent roles in several legal actions during the year. In September, DOJ challenged Parker-Hannifin Corp.'s $4.3 billion acquisition of Clarcor Inc. in Delaware federal district court.
The Clarcor purchase, the agency argued, would substantially lessen competition and raise prices in the U.S. aviation fuel filtration product market.
In October, both Bridgestone Corp. and Toyo made multi-million dollar settlements in DOJ lawsuits alleging that they fixed prices and rigged bids in markets in the late 1990s and early 2000s on automotive anti-vibration parts.
Bridgestone agreed to pay nearly $39 million in two separate lawsuits, while Toyo paid $36.1 million in a separate suit. A federal judge in Michigan gave tentative approval to a $9.36 million settlement between Bridgestone and a putative class of auto dealers Nov. 15.
Meanwhile, in November the United Steelworkers union formally requested the U.S. Department of Labor to intervene in its dispute with Kumho Tire USA.
The USW lost an organizing election at Kumho's new manufacturing facility in Macon, Ga., and the union accused the tire maker of unfair labor practices. The union filed charges with the National Labor Relations Board, then asked the Labor Department to convene the Labor Council under the U.S.-South Korea Free Trade Agreement.
Environmental issues were at the center of several lawsuits filed in 2017. In February, DuPont and Chemours Co. agreed to pay $670 million in a multidistrict litigation consolidated in Columbus, Ohio.
The agreement settled some 3,650 lawsuits connected to leaks of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) into drinking water from a DuPont facility in West Virginia. The lawsuits claimed that PFOA caused conditions ranging from high cholesterol to thyroid problems to cancer.