When most people think about motor vehicle accidents, they think about drivers making mistakes, whether it’s driving aggressively, texting while driving, or operating a vehicle after too many drinks.
But what happens if the vehicle is the problem?
On September 30, 2021, a Pennsylvania truck driver received a $3 million verdict following a truck accident caused by a defective truck tire.
Let’s take a closer look at the accident, as well as product liability lawsuits in general.
Trucker receives $3 million in lawsuit over defective tire treads
Milford Stevens was operating a tri-axle dump truck on U.S. 422 near Muddy Creek Township when the tread separated on his left front tire.
The tread separation caused the tire to quickly lose air pressure. As a result, the dump truck, which was carrying more than 72,000 pounds of sand, flipped over.
Over the course of the trial, Mr. Stevens’ lawyers argued that the tire, which was manufactured by Kumho Tire USA, was defectively designed and should have never entered the marketplace. Specifically, the attorneys argued that the tire’s belts didn’t include an adequate AO package, which would have prevented the tire from premature failure due to oxidation issues.
"This truck was a ticking time bomb because manufacturers like Kumho Tire USA are driven by profit rather than safety," said Mr. Stevens’ lawyer. "Bad designs cause bad problems. Companies like this shouldn't be allowed to benefit from our system of trade while disregarding the safety of our citizens."
Mr. Stevens suffered serious neurological injuries as a result of the crash, as well as fractures to his vertebrae, head, and face.
At the end of the trial, the Allegheny County jury returned a verdict of $3.08 million against Kumho Tire USA.
Other lawsuits involving Kumho Tire
The Korean tire manufacturer, Kumho Tire, is no stranger to being sued.
A similar lawsuit was filed against Kumho Tire in 2010. The lawsuit, Hajek v. Kumho Tire, was filed by the wife of a man who was killed when the vehicle he was driving was struck by a Ford F250 pickup. The lawsuit alleged that due to the tread and belt separation of the Ford F250’s front tire, which was manufactured by Kumho Tire, the driver lost control and crossed the yellow line. The case was ultimately settled.
What’s more, a class-action lawsuit was recently filed against Kumho Tire alleging that Kumho’s “low rolling resistance tires” were manufactured from a defective rubber compound that was “too soft and not in compliance with federal regulations.” As a result of the alleged defect, the class-action lawsuit alleges that the tires are subject to rapid wear and erosion, and are unsafe for road use. The case is currently pending.
Types of product liability lawsuits
The law recognizes 3 types of defects that can lead to a product liability lawsuit:
|Manufacturing defect||A defectively manufactured product is one that—though properly designed—left the manufacturer in a condition other than intended.||An over-aged rubber was accidentally used to manufacture a rubber tire, resulting in a tire that deteriorated quickly.|
|Design defect||A product is defectively designed if it failed to perform as safely as a reasonable person would expect, even when used as intended (or at least in a manner that was reasonably foreseeable).||A tire design failed to include skim stock (a rubber compound that serves as a reinforcement), resulting in a tire with a high rate of tread separation.|
|Failure to warn||Manufacturers have a duty to warn users of the dangers that can be reasonably anticipated and that are inherent in their products.||The tire packaging failed to warn users that the tire was dangerous if underinflated.|
Product liability claims are based on negligence or strict liability.
In a product liability case based on negligence, the plaintiff must prove that:
- The defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care (manufacturers owe a duty of care to all potential users),
- The defendant breached the duty of care, and
- The defendant's breach caused the plaintiff's injuries.
In a product liability case based on strict liability, the plaintiff must prove that:
- The product was sold in an "unreasonably dangerous" condition,
- The unreasonably dangerous condition existed when the product left the defendant's control, and
- The dangerous condition caused the plaintiff's injuries.
Anyone who's injured by a defective product can file a product liability lawsuit. This means you can file a product liability lawsuit if your car crashed because of a defective component or if you were injured by someone else’s car that crashed because of a defective component.