LOS ANGELES—A Los Angeles man has won more than $15 million from Dunlop Tire Corp. and a Los Angeles Ford dealership in a product liability case that Dunlop claims was filled with irregularities from the beginning.
Joven Mapa and his family were driving to Las Vegas in November 1997 in his 1991 Ford Aerostar van when the left rear tire, a Dunlop Axiom 70, blew out. The van overturned and Mr. Mapa was rendered quadriplegic.
Mr. Mapa sued Dunlop, El Monte Ford and Ford Motor Co. for $100 million, claiming the tire was defective and that the service manager at the dealership never told him about a mechanic's notation that the tire had a tread separation.
The Los Angeles Superior Court jury apportioned Mr. Mapa himself 12 percent of the blame in the accident, determining he had been driving over the speed limit and should have been able to keep control of the van. Dunlop was apportioned 31 percent of the liability, and El Monte Ford the rest. Ford Motor Co. settled out of court earlier for $1 million.
Mr. Mapa lost $1.8 million of the approximately $15 million verdict due to his portion of the liability, according to Don Fountain, the West Palm Beach, Fla., attorney who represented him. But California law also allows for prejudgment interest in product liability cases, and that should add another $2 million or so to Mr. Mapa's total, he said.
Dunlop plans to appeal to a California state appellate court, said Todd Theodora, the company's attorney.
All the irregularities that occurred during the trial will be spelled out in Dunlop's appeals brief, which will be filed within the next several weeks, Mr. Theodora said. But among other things, evidence was presented at the trial showing the tire had suffered heavy damage before the accident, causing it to break 30 of its steel cables.
The evidence also showed that Mr. Mapa knew there was a problem with the tire, and told the service writer so when he brought the van in for servicing, he said. Dunlop's share of the verdict—approximately $4 million—is one-fifth the settlement demand Mr. Mapa made of the tire maker, Mr. Theodora said.