LOS ANGELES—A quadriplegic woman is suing Continental Tire North America Inc., accusing the company of deliberately manufacturing defective tires.
Cynthia Lampe, 30, was driving her Ford Taurus from Los Angeles to Las Vegas in June 1996 when the tread on her left rear tire—a 15-inch General Ameri.Tech steel-belted radial—separated, according to the suit. The car veered out of control and rolled over. Ms. Lampe was paralyzed in the accident, and her mother also suffered serious injuries.
The tire was original equipment on the car and is said to have had 75 percent of its tread remaining. It was made at the Continental plant in Mt. Vernon, Ill., and Ms. Lampe's suit alleges Conti "knowingly released defective and contaminated tires into the marketplace."
Opening statements in the case were made in Los Angeles County Superior Court Jan. 24. Ms. Lampe's attorney, Brian Panish of the Santa Monica, Calif., firm of Greene, Broillet, Taylor, Wheeler & Panish, said in a Jan. 23 press release that the case is "the first courtroom action involving tread separation since the massive Firestone-Ford recall."
Mr. Panish claimed to have testimony from Mt. Vernon employees who said there were "routine failures to follow quality control procedures at the Mt. Vernon plant," the release stated. "As a result, contaminants were placed into the rubber during the manufacturing process. These contaminants weakened the tire belts' adhesion."
The suit also alleges Conti "delayed in implementing low-cost design changes that they knew would save lives" and pressured managers "to falsify inspection records and operate the plant at 103 percent above capability."
Ms. Lampe seeks unspecified damages in the suit. Mr. Panish couldn't be reached for comment, and his spokesman said he couldn't say anything about the case beyond what was in the press release. A Conti spokeswoman also declined comment on the grounds that the case is ongoing. "We have to wait till the judge decides," she said.
Until Jan. 1, Continental Tire North America Inc. was known as Continental General Tire Inc. It is a subsidiary of Germany-based Continental A.G.