Auto Accident Lawyer
The tire manufacturing industry contends that few accidents are caused by tire defects. Experts can debate the statistics, but a quick look at three recent tire recalls tells a frightening story.
Achieva Rubberis told the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) that it was recalling certain Innova-brand specialty trailer tires because they may fail federal strength tests. The six-ply tires, manufactured in China, lacked sufficient nylon belt material to satisfy federal safety standards.
Continental has recalled thousands of its Conti Coach HA3 commercial truck tires. According to Continental, the tires have cords that become visible through the inner liners. Continental acknowledged that air can penetrate the inner liner, which might cause a bulge or blister in the sidewall. A tire with that defect could experience sudden air loss, resulting in loss of control of the vehicle.
Kumho Tire is recalling certain Solus KH16 tires because the tire belts may separate. Belt separation is one of the most dangerous conditions associated with defective tires. Kumho explained that its Macon, Georgia plant used incorrect materials in the construction of the tires.
Concealing Evidence of Tire Defects
Recalls are a good thing, to the extent that manufacturers discover a defect and take prompt action to remove defective products from the market. At the same time, recalls make clear that a manufacturer marketed a dangerous product, and that its quality control process failed to prevent dangerous products from reaching the market.
Unfortunately, tire recalls often occur after tire failure has caused deadly accidents. In 2001, NHTSA investigated fatal accidents attributed to Firestone tires, primarily due to tread separation. Before Firestone recalled the tires, NHTSA uncovered almost 300 deaths associated with accidents involving defective Firestone tires. The number of nonfatal accidents is unclear, but there is little doubt that thousands of additional passengers and drivers were injured because of defective Firestone tires.
Documents reported by the news media revealed that Firestone was aware of the tire defects at least by 1997, and actually recalled some of the same tires that it sold in Middle Eastern countries in response to dealer pressure. Despite a growing rate of warranty claims for tire failures, Firestone took no action to recall the tires it sold in the United States until after NHTSA’s investigation came to the public’s attention.
Is Goodyear the New Firestone?
While almost two decades have passed since the Firestone fiasco, it isn’t clear that the tire industry has learned its lesson. Dozens of lawsuits suggest that Goodyear is the latest tire manufacturer to put profits ahead of public safety.
Goodyear has been accused of selling its G159 tire to recreational vehicle manufacturers while concealing evidence that the tire, developed for low-speed delivery vehicles, was incapable of handling highway speeds when used on an RV. Goodyear’s own test data suggested that the tires were prone to heat-induced failure, including tread separations and blowouts, particularly when affixed to a heavy vehicle traveling at freeway speeds. That data did not stop Goodyear from selling the tire to RV manufacturers.
Goodyear has tried to settle the lawsuits quietly and confidentially, a practice that may have delayed a NHTSA investigation of the defective tires. Goodyear has also been accused of “aggressively covering up a deadly defect” by waging “an exhaustive legal campaign . . . that kept plaintiffs from knowing the details of just how bad the G159 really was.” A federal judge concluded that Goodyear’s attorneys withheld crucial data from plaintiffs.
After news reports surfaced regarding the lethal tires, NHTSA obtained a court order to examine evidence that had been subject to protective orders and confidentiality clauses in settlement agreements. That investigation may eventually lead to a recall, although given the long delay, many RV owners may have already replaced the tires.
Tire Defect Litigation
Tread and belt separations are the most common sign of a defective tire. While tire manufacturers routinely attribute tire failures to causes other than defects, any serious accident that can be traced to a tire failure merits investigation by a lawyer who handles product liability cases.
When tires fail during normal usage, experienced lawyers draw on experts in the fields of tire construction, material science, and vehicle dynamics to build a case against tire manufacturers. Tire manufacturers nearly always blame consumers for tire failures, but experienced auto accident lawyer know how to overcome those defenses.