Our firm recently settled a case for our client and her son who received serious injuries when the right front tire on their truck suffered a complete tread separation causing the vehicle to become uncontrollable, leave the roadway and strike a tree. Nankang Rubber Tire Company, a Chinese tire maker, manufactured the tire, a Mudstar Radial tubeless steel-belted radial tire, LT 285/75 R16. Tireco, a California company and the exclusive distributor for Nankang for the United States, imported the tire.
One of our experts identified numerous defects with the Nankang tire that caused the tire to fail. Even more troubling is that our expert actually inspected the Nankang plant that manufactured the tire and documented manufacturing and quality control measures utilized by this company that were outdated by nearly 30 years.
The most troubling aspect of this case were the actions, or inactions, of the company that imported the Mudstar tire. As more and more of the products we buy, including tires, are being made in China and other foreign countries, the “importers” role is becoming more critical. In too many instances, “importers” are not taking the appropriate steps to assure that foreign tire makers’ tires are safe, despite the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) standards requiring them to do so.
Under Federal law, “importers” must take steps to assure that the tires they import are free of defects. Good manufacturing processes require “importers” to conduct on-site inspection(s) of a foreign tire makers’ facilities to assure that adequate testing, manufacturing, quality control and other measures are in place. Further, “importers,” once they import tires into this country, should perform random sampling, testing and inspection of foreign tires before they distribute and/or sell the tires to consumers in this country.
In this case, we learned that while Tireco imports more than 400,000 tires a month, it does nothing to assure that the tires, including the Nankang tires it imports, sells and profits from, are safe. In fact, Tireco admitted it never inspected the manufacturing plant that produced the tire line at issue. In addition, Tireco never observed any tire testing or required verification that the minimum FMVSS testing was even being performed. Further, Tireco admitted that it took no steps to assure Nankang’s manufacturing processes were reasonable or that the Chinese manufacturer employed any quality control measures at all.
Finally, Tireco conceded that it never performed one post-“import” inspection, test and/or took any other step relative to one single tire it sold despite the Federal requirements to do so. This conduct is particularly troubling when you consider how important tires are to our safety. I have often written that tires are one of the most important safety components on a vehicle. Indeed, tires are the only thing between your vehicle and the road. If a tire fails at highway speeds, we have seen that the consequences can be tragic. Companies that import tires, or any product for that matter, should be held accountable when they do nothing to assure these products are safe for American consumers.
Rick Morrison, a lawyer in our firm’s Personal Injury/Product Liability Section, represented our clients in this case and he did a very good job for them. If you need additional information on this case, contact Rick at 800-898-2034 or by email at Rick.Morrison@beasleyallen.com.
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