— A Goodyear tire lawsuit has ended in favor of a Nissan Pathfinder driver after a Michigan appeals court ruled a jury award of millions of dollars will stand.
Harishkumar Patel told the jury he was driving on a Michigan freeway when he heard a noise as the 1998 Nissan Pathfinder rolled over and crashed into a ditch. Patel says he remembers waking up from a coma in the hospital, a ventilator breathing for him and unable to feel or move from the neck down.
Patel blames the July 2012 crash on a right rear tire tread that separated and allegedly caused his Pathfinder to roll over. Sadly, the crash left the plaintiff a quadriplegic.
The first trial resulted in a deadlocked jury, causing the judge to declare a mistrial but leaving the plaintiff open to argue his case in front of a second jury. With Goodyear arguing the evidence didn't show it was responsible for the crash, the jury ruled in favor of Patel concerning breach of warranty and negligent production claims.
However, Goodyear was cleared concerning claims of gross negligence.
The jury originally awarded $16 million to Patel, with more than $8 million awarded for non-economic damages. However, Michigan law caps non-economic damage awards at $795,000.
Goodyear argued the 7-year-old tire must have hit something at some point that damaged the tire and led to the eventual separation of the treads.
Goodyear told the jury Mr. Patel wouldn't have been injured if he wouldn't have over-steered after the Pathfinder All-Terrain tire blew out. But the jury also heard from a retired Goodyear employee who testified that workers were in trouble if they didn't meet a quota when manufacturing the tires. However, employees could depend on bonus money if they exceeded the quota.
When asked if he ever felt pressured to get the tires off the line and out the doors, the former employee said, "Oh, yes, it was all about the numbers. They wanted good numbers."
But when asked if he ever did anything to decrease safety just to meet production goals, the former employee said he hadn't and that Goodyear built safe tires.
According to court documents, a Goodyear employee at the North Carolina plant that made the Pathfinder All-Terrain tire testified the plant motto was, "round and black and out the back."
Lawyers for Patel told the jury the tire tread and steel belts were not bonded properly when the tire was manufactured. In addition, Patel's lawyers said the same North Carolina plant that made the Pathfinder tire also made a tire involved in the deaths of two Texas students.
The students, Kerrybeth Hall and Matthew Smith, were killed in a 2011 crash allegedly caused by tread that separated on a Goodyear Wrangler SilentArmor tire. Both families reached confidential settlements with the company.
Goodyear tires have been the focus of multiple lawsuits and are currently under federal investigation, specifically G159 tires sold for motorhomes and delivery trucks. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) opened the investigation that involves about 40,000 tires manufactured between 1996 and 2003.
The government opened the investigation after learning about injuries and deaths caused by G159 tires and how Goodyear has allegedly tried to keep the subject quiet by settling lawsuits that are then sealed based on confidentiality agreements.