Just because a tire looks brand new doesn’t always mean it’s actually brand new. In fact, a tire can look flawless on the outside and be ready to rip apart on the inside. This is a deadly lesson that many have come to know all too well. For example, in 1999, Linda Rowan had a flat tire on her SUV. She used her ten-year-old spare, which looked like a brand-new tire with good tread. But the tire was not in good shape. The tire failed two days later while her son was driving. He lost control of the SUV and died in a rollover crash even though he was wearing his seatbelt.
This is not news to the tire industry, which has known for decades that tires more than six years old are dangerous, even if the tread is not worn. Aging tires begin to deteriorate, dry out and develop adhesions. The breakdown of the tire leads to tread separation, which causes catastrophic tire failures such as the one that occurred with Mrs. Rowan’s SUV.
Unfortunately, most tire manufacturers have chosen not to warn consumers of the danger of tire aging. Further, even many tire service technicians are unaware of the dangers of tire aging and often replace flat tires with tires that are older than six years. Despite all of this knowledge, there is no mandate from NHTSA that tires carry an expiration date or warning about tire aging.
As a result, there are several liability theories lawyers in our firm can pursue against a tire manufacturer. First, the Plaintiff can allege that the tire was defective under the Alabama Extended Manufacturers Liability Doctrine (AEMLD), which governs product liability actions in Alabama. The more common defect alleged in tire-aging cases is design defect, which means that the entire line of tires is unreasonably dangerous. Further, the Plaintiff can allege failure to warn since the tire industry is aware of the problems with tire aging and fails to warn consumers publicly. To establish a failure-to-warn claim under the AEMLD, a Plaintiff must prove that:
• a Defendant had a duty to warn Plaintiff of the tire’s danger when used in its intended manner;
• any warning provided by the Defendant breach that duty because the warning was inadequate; and
• that the breach of that duty caused Plaintiff’s injuries.
If you would like more information on the danger of tire aging, please contact Cole Portis, Rick Morrison, or Stephanie Stephens, lawyers in our Personal Injury/Products Liability Section, at 800-898-2034 or by email at Cole.Portis@beasleyallen.com, Rick.Morrison@beasleyallen.com or Stephanie.Stephens@beasleyallen.com.
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