A retired couple was traumatically injured when their front left drive tire suffered a catastrophic tire tread separation while driving at highway speeds in West Texas. This case involved very complex issues of accident reconstruction and engineering.
Justin Hill: Welcome to Hill Law firm Cases, a podcast discussing real-world cases handled by Justin Hill and the Hill Law Firm. For confidentiality reasons, names and amounts of any settlements have been removed. However, the facts are real. These are the cases we handle on a day-to-day basis.
Justin: I was very lucky as a young lawyer to get a job with one of the best plaintiff’s personal injury and commercial litigation law firms in the United States. I cold-called him coming out of law school hoping for the best. That was a non-traditional path. I didn’t follow an application out, and send a resume in, and wait three weeks. I went after the job I wanted. One reason I wanted that job was because I wanted to do products liability work.
I wanted to be able to represent people who were injured due to the dangerous design and defect of products. A lot of people understand this as cases based on things like the Ford/Firestone recall, or Ford rollovers, or other vehicle defects. One of the most famous examples is asbestos or lawn darts. There are certain products that are dangerous, and they’re unreasonably dangerous for what their intended purpose is.
Luckily, at my first job, I got to work on some of those cases. One of them involved an older couple who had retired. They had decided they were going to buy an RV. They were going to travel around. They were going to enjoy their golden years.
While they were coming back from a trip to Colorado, they suffered what’s called a tire delamination, a tire detread. These are defects in tires. When a tire doesn’t fully cook or cure together, the tire can fall apart. This is different than a blowout. This is different than all the treads you see on the road. Usually, that is tread associated with retreaded tires.
Passenger vehicle tires are not retreaded, and they should not fall apart. The same is to be said for RV tires. The RV tires in the front aren’t allowed to be retreaded. They have to be new tires, and they should not fall apart. In our case, our clients were driving highway speeds when the front left tire delaminated. What this meant is that their vehicle pulled hard left.
Based on the accident reconstruction, it pulled left, it went left and it was not moving. Unfortunately, for our clients, in the area where there was not much other than wheat fields, they hit head on a concrete box culvert. Both of the passengers were critically injured, lower leg injuries, and just a series of injuries, and complications related to their traumatic injuries.
A couple of things happen after that. We sued the tire maker for making a defective tire. This was one of the largest tire makers in the world, and they gave us the runaround. This tire was made overseas because they had reached capacity in the United States. They forced us to go overseas to Italy to depose factory workers.
On top of that, the way these cases are typically defended is an accident reconstructionist hired by the tire company will say something along the lines of, “Yes, even if that did happen, these are controllable events.” They usually say, “You take your foot off the gas and you let your vehicle slow down, while you try to maintain speed.” There’s testing showing that that is not necessarily true and that there are uncontrollable events following tire delaminations.
What we had in our case was a RV owner’s website by this tire company. It actually discussed this exact scenario. That if this were to happen on the drive axle that the driver should accelerate until they’re able to straighten out their vehicle. This is different advice than is given for passenger vehicles. Once we got into our case, we found out that’s exactly what our client had done. He was prepared. He did the right thing.
After years of litigation, the tire company did the right thing, after defending it and saying our client failed to properly react, and that the tire was perfect. Without admitting liability, through their actions, they showed us that they felt our client deserved justice, and we were able to get the case resolved.