ATLANTA (March 7, 2001)—Trial courts are not required to admit evidence of a tire maker´s adjustment claims in a product liability trial, the Georgia Supreme Court has ruled in a case involving Cooper Tire & Rubber Co.
Cooper hailed the Feb. 16 decision in a March 7 statement. "We are extremely pleased with the Georgia Supreme Court´s decision," the Findlay, Ohio-based tire maker said. "We believe it is an accurate and solid affirmation of the law. Further, we believe it vindicates Cooper´s position that warrantly claims data is a marketing outcome rather than evidence in a product liability dispute."
Attorneys for the family of Bobby Crosby, who was killed in June 1991 when a Cooper tire on his Ford Bronco II blew out, wanted to introduce the consumer claims Cooper honored over the years for all tires manufactured at the Cooper plant in Texarkana, Ark. Cooper challenged this motion, arguing there was "no evidence of a substantial similarity" between the tire in the case and the tires listed in the adjustment data.
The trial court excluded the data, but the state appeals court reversed that decision. In a 5-2 ruling, the Georgia Supreme Court found the appeals court "erred by disregarding the trial court´s correct conclusion" that the adjustment data had no bearing on the tire in the case, according to the majority opinion written by Justice Leah Ward Sears.
In her dissent, Justice Carol W. Hunstein said the majority opinion "establishes an unwarranted threshold standard for admissibility in product liability cases."
There was no word on whether the Crosby family would appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. Cooper noted in its statement that no motion for reconsideration of the decision had been filed before the Georgia Supreme Court.
Neither Cooper nor the Georgia Supreme Court summary of the case named the type of Cooper tire that failed on the Crosbys´ vehicle.