A 12-year-old boy has been awarded $12 million against Michelin by a Texas jury for injuries suffered in an automobile accident that was allegedly caused by tire tread separation.
The product liability lawsuit was brought on behalf of Jesus Guzman, alleging that Michelin North America was liable for negligently manufacturing defective tires that resulted in a 2006 New Years Eve accident outside Matamoros, Mexico. As a result of the accident, Guzman, who was 10 years-old at the time, was left paralyzed and six others were killed.
Guzman’s family was driving a 2002 Ford F-250 pickup truck that evening when one of the tires failed due to tread separation. The blowout caused the vehicle to swerve head-on into an oncoming Chevrolet Suburban, killing all six passengers in the Suburban.
The tire tread separation lawsuit claimed that leaks in the roof of a Michelin plant in Alabama caused machines to create defective tires that had a propensity to fail.
Tread separation can be problem in steel-belted radial tires when the steel does not properly adhere to the rubber. When that adhesion fails, usually in hot weather or at high speeds, it can result in a catastrophic tire failure with loss of vehicle control. These tread separations can be connected to defective manufacturing or design problems.
The Willacy County jury awarded Guzman $11.96 million against Michelin on September 11, rejecting the tire maker’s claim that the truck’s bumper scraped off the top of the tire.
A number of tire companies have faced similar tire tread separation lawsuits for producing defective tires or failing to issue a recall once the problems were discovered. In April, the Mississippi Court of Appeals upheld a $2.1 million verdict against Goodyear and Big 10 Tire Co., in which a jury found that a failed and defective Goodyear tire led to a 2000 accident that killed the driver and injured two passengers. Last month, another product liability tire lawsuit was filed against Goodyear by the mother of a man killed in a 2003 accident, alleging that Goodyear failed to issue a recall for tires it knew to suffer from tread separation problems.