A Sophisticated Edge

A roll-over crash on I-95 had catastrophic consequences for a Connecticut family returning from vacation in Florida—paralyzing one passenger, causing another permanent spinal injuries, and significantly injuring five others in the vehicle. Highway Patrol determined the cause of the crash to be a tread separation on the left rear Cooper Mastercraft tire of the Plymouth Voyager. Nine days before the crash, the right rear tire had been replaced by Wal-Mart, following a puncture in Florida.

As we often do in cases involving motor vehicle wrecks, Faxon Law Group immediately traveled to the scene of the crash in Florida and hired our own expert investigators to explore and identify all possible targets. During our initial investigation we discovered that the Cooper Mastercraft that failed had a defective design omitting critical manufacturing components necessary to maximize the robustness of tires in hot Florida climates. In order to save money, $2 worth of rubber and nylon were omitted from the design by the manufacturer. Had those components, a spiral nylon overwrap (SNOW) and belt edge gum strips (BEGS) been incorporated into the design, the tire never would have failed. In addition, we conducted complex radiography of the tire revealing manufacturing defects that contributed to the failure. This product liability aspect, however, was just one contributing factor that led to the horrific crash.

Investigation further revealed that Wal-Mart failed to comply with proper maintenance standards when it failed to recommend that the Cooper be taken out of service due to its excessive age. Chrysler recommends that tires over 6 years old be removed from service regardless of tread depth. Wal-Mart did not advise customers of this vital safety information. It was also discovered that Wal-Mart violated internal rules and tire change procedures in failing to inspect all tires as well as failing to advise the customer to change the left rear tire at the time of installation of the new right rear tire. Had the Cooper been changed as required, the crash never would have occurred.

Utilizing engineering and design experts gave Faxon Law Group a sophisticated edge in this case. We commenced suit against both Cooper and Wal-Mart to recover maximum damages for our clients, after extracting the policy limit of the vehicle’s insurance, without the need for a lawsuit. To leverage the case against these multi-billion dollar adversaries, the firm hired forensic tire failure analysts, certified expert automotive technicians, and crash reconstructionists to testify in behalf of our clients. A confidential settlement was reached after a scorched-earth defense and all defendants were forced to pay substantial damages. Money can never fully right a wrong, but demanding accountability—within the limits of our system—of all responsible parties can at least alleviate some of the financial burdens victims experience in catastrophic motor vehicle crashes. We were pleased to resolve this case on behalf of our Connecticut clients.

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