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Published on May 22, 2000

Trial shows dealer weakness

It was only pretend, but tire dealers and retreaders can learn a lot from the mock trial conducted by the International Tire and Rubber Association at its recent World ITRA Expo in Nashville. The trial, which involved a blown truck tire that seriously injured a passing driver, demonstrated that tire dealerships need solid proof that they've provided formal training to their employees.

That will help dealers present a credible defense should they find themselves embroiled in a liability case involving a tire failure.

What's more, they'll need to show that their employees follow the industry recommended practices for servicing and repairing tires or face being picked apart by a plaintiff's attorney.

Employee testing and certification can help demonstrate this fact.

The outcome of the mock case showed that the largely tire dealer audience found for the defense.

But the lawyers trying the mock case said a real jury likely would have ruled otherwise.

A real jury, one of the lawyers said, would have concentrated on the repair shop employee's lack of formal training rather than all the technical testimony about the cause of the tire's failure.

Such cases are "not a search for the truth," the other attorney said. "It's a search for what you can prove."

Were this case a real one, the damages awarded the plaintiff could have exceeded $2 million, the lawyers said.

That should make dealers think twice about their own training practices.

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