Cooper Cobra Tire Lawsuit Filed Over Fatal Ford Explorer Rollover Accident

The deaths of four Florida high school students in a 2009 auto accident have led to the filing of a wrongful death lawsuit against Cooper Tire and Ford Motor Company. 

The complaints have been filed by family members of students killed or injured in a Ford Explorer Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV) riding on Cooper Cobra tires that rolled over in a June 5, 2009 accident in Jacksonville, Florida. In addition to Ford and Cooper, the lawsuit also names as defendants Big Chief’s Tire Co., a Cooper distributor, and Imagine Cars of Orlando, the dealership where the SUV was purchased.

The car contained nine teenagers at the time of the accident. Four of the youths, Kimber Krebs, 15, Dennis Stout, 17, John Kiely, 15, and Erin Hurst Livingston, 15, were killed and four others were injured. Those injured included Shannon Broome, 15, Timothy Adam, 15, Jimmy Garcia, 15 and Rebecca Pilkington, 16. All were students at Ed White High School.

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Florida state police investigators determined that the accident occurred after the tread on the Cooper Cobra tire on the left rear wheel failed due to tread separation. The product liability tire lawsuit filed this week alleges that Cooper has chronic tire separation problems and sells defective products that directly contributed to the accident. The lawsuit points to a number of other lawsuits against Cooper due to tire separation that caused sometimes fatal car accidents.

The tires had been replaced only two weeks before by Big Chief, and police found no nails or other damage that could have caused the treads to separate, the lawsuit alleges.

Cooper responded to the lawsuit on Monday, saying that the accident “had nothing to do with the design or safety of Cooper tires.” Cooper’s response points out that the vehicle was being driven by a 15-year-old unlicensed driver, Brandon Hodges, who, now 16, is awaiting trial in juvenile court on charges of causing death while driving without a license.

Cooper also points out that the vehicle had five seat belts, but there were nine youths in the vehicle. Only one of the teenagers was wearing a seatbelt. The rest were ejected from the vehicle during the rollover accident.


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