SAN DIEGO—A San Diego jury awarded a man $7.6 million on Nov. 7 after deciding a Uniroyal tire was responsible for the accident that rendered him a quadriplegic and killed another man. ``The jury came back and said yes the tire was defective, and yes (Uniroyal Inc.) was 100 percent responsible,'' said Michael Goldstein, a lawyer for plaintiff Robert Carver, 28.
``Uniroyal is very disappointed in the verdict,'' said a spokesman for the tire brand.
Uniroyal manufactured the tire before the company exited the tire business in October 1985. Group Michelin acquired the assets and liabilities of the Uniroyal tire business when it purchased Uniroyal Goodrich Tire Co. in 1990, the spokesman said.
Mr. Carver and Jeffrey Johnstone were riding in the back of a pickup truck on July 7, 1993, when the right rear tire—a 16-inch Uniroyal Laredo—failed. The driver, Tony Sellers, lost control of the vehicle and it overturned, throwing the two passengers into the highway, where Mr. Johnstone was struck and killed and Mr. Carver was struck and severely injured.
On Oct. 7, the jury found the tire was defective and Uniroyal was responsible for the plaintiffs' injuries and damages. A month later jurors awarded Mr. Carver $7.6 million and Mr. Johnstone's father $600,000. Two other victims received a total of $172,000. Mr. Carver had offered to settle for $1 million, Mr. Goldstein said, but the company never replied.
The plaintiffs' attorneys contended there was a defective bond between the steel cords and the rubber which caused a belt separation in the light truck tire. They also said the Laredo model had experienced an extraordinary number of belt separations, and Uniroyal documents revealed the tires were failing from separation at a 2- to 4-percent rate.
Mr. Goldstein said there have been 20 other lawsuits across the country concerning the 16-inch Laredo and a recall during the 1980s of a 15-inch Laredo.
The Uniroyal spokesman said there had been two recalls of Laredo tires in 1985 and 1986, but they involved different sizes and tread patents.
The type of tire used on Mr. Sellers' truck ``has never been recalled,'' the spokesman said.
He added that the tire was more than 8 years old and had in excess of 40,000 miles on it.
The tire experienced tread detachment caused by sidewall shoulder curbing impact, the spokesman said.
Michelin is considering an appeal of the verdict.