Our firm is currently handling a lawsuit where our client went to a local tire dealer in need of two rear tires. The tire dealer informed him, “It is your lucky day.” The dealer explained that they had a like new tire that matched his spare tire and for that reason he could get by with only purchasing one tire. What he did not tell our client is that the spare tire on his Ford Explorer had been recalled by Firestone and should have been taken out of service. The dealer also failed to inform our client that the tire he was selling was also a recalled tire. Even more unbelievable is that the recalled tire he sold to our client was almost 20 years old.
Predictably, the 20-year old recalled tire suffered a tread belt detachment resulting in the Ford Explorer rolling over, crashing, and rendering our client a paraplegic. That was a tragic result that should never have happened. A leading auto safety group is calling for used tire dealers and wholesalers to adopt stricter standards to inspect the millions of tires they sell to motorists every year. The sale of used tires is largely unregulated, and each year, worn tires are the cause of countless accidents, many of them ending in fatalities, safety advocates say. Some used tires are repaired, repainted or patched before sale, making it difficult for consumers to gauge their safety. Sean Kane, president of Safety Research & Strategies, had this to say:
Without self-policing and a more transparent business model, used tire sellers are courting disaster. Regulators should examine how to ensure consumers are getting safe tires. Used tire sellers should adopt meaningful tire inspections that combine visual reviews with internal exams. There is no standard of care beyond a visual inspection, and they can’t pick out all the unsafe tires.”The best method is for the industry to certify used tires, much as a dealer would offer a certified used car.
Americans discarded 300 million tires in 2005 and bought about 225 million replacement tires, spending more than $10 billion, the last year for which data is available. A search for used tires on the web turned up thousands of listings. An estimated 16 million tires sold annually are retreaded tires, which are tires that are made from used tires — primarily heavy truck tires. Those tires — made by many major manufacturers — are regulated, tested and given a new serial number.
Used tires have been the subject of growing concern by automakers and safety advocates. A primary reason for this concern is the age of these tires.
Mr. Kane submitted details about 108 accidents linked to tread separation of tires more than 6 years old to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Those accidents resulted in 85 deaths. Nationwide statistics are not available. NHTSA has been conducting tests on new tires to determine their durability and may pursue a test this year to simulate aging. BMW AG, Ford Motor Co., DaimlerChrysler AG, Toyota Motor Corp. and Volkswagen AG have backed guidelines that tires should only be in service six years. Most consumers do not know how to read the DOT number in order to determine the age of a tire. Even for those that do, the numbering system is confusing and can be misleading.
A process called shearography, a method of detecting defects using lasers, can be used to identify unsafe tires. A machine using the process can non-destructively examine the inside of a tire, similar to the way an MRI is used in medicine. The machines cost $150,000 to $250,000. Shearography has been used for more than a decade to inspect airline tires; nearly all airplane tires are retreaded tires. It is “capable of finding a multitude of problems produced by such things as faulty repairs, run flat tires (and) inner liner damage,” according to Dean Smith, a Tennessee-based retread tire consultant. He says used tires are a risk, adding: “You don’t know if it’s going to blow up, and you don’t know where it’s been.” We have learned through ligation that companies that recycle and resell used tires don’t always carefully inspect them. If you need additional information on this subject, or on tire litigation generally, contact Rick Morrison, a lawyer in our firm, at 800-898-2034 or by email at Rick.Morrison@beasleyallen.com.
Source: Detroit News Washington Bureau
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