TRENTON, N.J. (Nov. 14, 2000)—Two advocacy groups filed a motion in a Trenton court to unseal the deposition of a Goodyear engineer in a product liability case.
Trial Lawyers for Public Justice and Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety filed the motion Nov. 1 in Mercer County Superior Court. At issue is a deposition the unnamed engineer gave in a case involving three U.S. Air Force personnel who were killed in 1997 when a 16-inch Goodyear Load Range E tire came apart on a General Motors Suburban.
"We believe the deposition and attached documents will help the public and government determine whether those tires are safe or not, and if not, what steps should be taken," said Arthur Bryant, executive director of Trial Lawyers for Public Justice, from his office in Oakland, Calif.
TLPJ knows of about 10 lawsuits filed against Goodyear at this point involving Load Range E tires, but is concentrating on the New Jersey case because "it is the farthest along in terms of discovery," Mr. Bryant said.
Goodyear wants to keep the deposition sealed, not only because it contains "a lot of proprietary trade secrets," but also because the way the document is framed could be turned against Goodyear, according to a spokesman for the tire maker.
"We found absolutely no defects in the tires, but engineers approach every question with a very negative hypothesis, which is what they´re supposed to do," the spokesman said. "They very laboriously go after each of these questions to either prove or disprove it. So those documents are pretty negative toward us."
Judge Neil H. Shuster of the Mercer County court has scheduled a Nov. 17 hearing on the motion to unseal the deposition, the Goodyear spokesman said. Mr. Bryant, however, said he didn´t know if that date had been confirmed.
A "Los Angeles Times" article Oct. 24 fingered Goodyear Load Range E tires as the subject of several lawsuits involving at least eight deaths.
In a subsequent public statement, Joseph A. Gingo, Goodyear senior vice president-technology and global products planning, said the company had identified 30 accidents, 15 deaths and 125 injuries involving Load Range E tires.
The company found no material, design or manufacturing flaws in the tires, Mr. Gingo said, but did find evidence of overloading which caused the tire maker to add a nylon overlay to the tires starting in 1996.
TLPJ, according to its website, is "a national public interest law firm that marshals the skills and resources of trial lawyers to create a more just society." Its headquarters is in Washington, with West Coast offices in Oakland. Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety is a auto safety advocates´ group with offices in Washington and in Sacramento, Calif.