- I do not know of any tire that is built to last 74,000 miles. I think this is an insurmountable hurdle to get over.
The plaintiff is alleging that there was a tire tread separation and they are bringing a lawsuit against the tire manufacturer.
Plaintiffs allege that the tire was negligently manufactured in May 2000 which led to the left rear tread separation on June 13, 2004 as these two families were traveling down the turnpike in ABC County in a 2000 Blazer.
Plaintiffs' expert will testify that his inspection of the tire revealed evidence of trapped air, liner pattern marks, rubber reversion, thin innerliner and irregular belts, all of which are manufacturing defects which lead to the tread separation.
The tire was an original tire to the Blazer and had about 74,000 miles on it. The tread on the tire was about 4/32 (this is a decent amount of tread). Weather was not an issue. Speed was in the 70 to 80 mph range. The tire detreaded in about 1.5 to 2.5 seconds.
Once the tread began to separate from the tire, the driver made a small steering input to the right (to counter a leftward pull) and then a larger steering input back to the left at which point the Blazer began a passenger side leading roll. The Blazer rolled 5 or 6 times and was engulfed in flames at final rest. During the rollover, all five occupants were ejected. The Blazer belonged to Juanita and was being driven by her boyfriend, Jose. Both adults died. Juanita's' 4 year old daughter has a significant injury with brain damage. Jose's 7 year old son died and his 4 year old daughter suffered minor physical injuries.
The tire company claims that the tire detreaded because of an impact to the tire in its last 500 miles. Tire company's (TC) expert will testify that all of the damage to the tire is located in one specific area and is consistent with the type of damage resulting from an impact to that area in the last 500 miles. TC will present evidence through an expert that the driver "overcorrected" and could have easily controlled the vehicle when the tire detreaded. Finally,TC found that if the occupants had remained within the vehicle during the rollover, they would not have died or suffered such significant injuries. (NO SEATBELTS)
Finally defense points out that :
1. the tire had 74,000 miles on it;
2. all of the occupants were ejected (i.e. no seatbelts) and the parents not not make sure the children were belted
My question to you: what is the legal cause of injury.. the defect in the tire or the failure to wear a sweatbelt?
Canâ€™t say what is legal cause, but it seems, based on defendant expertâ€™s assessment that the tire failed due to no fault of driver or owner.
As to the issue of seatbelts:
That is a significant issue. Person is more likely than not to be ejected in this type of incident when not seatbelted. But it is an aggravating cause whereas without the tire failure issue and the subsequent actions, the rollover would not have occurred.
As to the seatbelts and the children, certainly the parents should be faulted for not seatbelting them, but the children should not be held accountable. As to whether any award, that is a tricky question. I would like to hear arguments how the seatbelt issue would affect the award. One tricky area is should the childrenâ€™s compensation amount for the loss of a parent be affected when it was the parent who decided to not wear a seatbelt.
Did the impact cause the tire to detread or was it a defect?
Defense says that the tire incurred an impact in the last 500 miles. I am assuming the impact was not an impact received during the rolling events, but rather was an impact prior to this specific incident. Hence, TC fault, not driver/owner.
What do you think about the overcorrection?
Probably, but that happens often. Driver was not identified as a professional or otherwise trained driver having special knowledge or skills regarding vehicle handling under this type of condition.
Who is correct and why?
Not sure which expert is correct, not my field. But I donâ€™t think it makes any difference. The tire failed, the driver was steering to compensate for the tire failure cause in the vehicle handling characteristics, I donâ€™t know why the second change in steering: perceived need to correct, didnâ€™t understand the correction issues, panic, perceived a greater risk if didnâ€™t correct, etc. It happens. As to the consequent rollover, if it can be proven that the driver purposely overcorrected to seek a thrill, etc. then the injuries are not the fault of TC. If so, then it is reasonable to expect this vehicle would roll, and it is reasonable to expect occupants not seatbelted would be ejected, and it would be expected that ejected occupants would be seriously, if not fatally, damaged.
Iâ€™m curious, why isnâ€™t the car manufacturer included in the lawsuit: high center of gravity vehicle with propensity to roll in situations like this. Was this tire failure a design or manufacturing defect? Was this tire appropriate for this vehicle? Were there any warnings that the tire shouldnâ€™t be driven for 74,000 miles?
Congrats on the upcoming new addition! Is this your first?
Thomas O. Plouff
Plouff Law Offices, P.C.
Birmingham, AL 35212
Costello, McMahon, Burke & Murphy, Ltd.
150 N. Wacker Drive, Ste. 3050
Chicago, IL 60606
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]