WASHINGTON-Continental Tire North America Inc. and Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. say they will appeal multimillion-dollar jury verdicts in product liability lawsuits that alleged their tires were defective.
In the case of Cynthia Lampe, Conti was hit with the bigger award-nearly $55.4 million-in the April 13 verdict in the Los Angeles Superior Court.
Ms. Lampe, a 33-year-old Las Vegas resident, was driving her Ford Taurus between Las Vegas and Los Angeles in June 1997 when a General AmeriTech ST radial on the left rear of her vehicle suffered a tread separation. She lost control of the car and crashed into an embankment. The accident rendered her quadriplegic, and her mother and boyfriend also were injured.
The woman's attorneys argued both the individual tire and the tire design were faulty. While the jury, after deliberating eight days, disagreed 11-1 with the latter allegation, it still awarded $49.9 million to Ms. Lampe; $4.5 million to her mother, Sylvia Cortez; and $1 million to her father, Joe Cortez.
One day earlier, a county court jury in El Paso, Texas, ordered Cooper to pay $10 million to the survivors of Maria Luisa Mendez, Adela Duran, Manuel Duran and Carmen Reynoso.
All four died near Albuquerque, N.M., in June 1997 when the minivan in which they rode rolled over. The other three occupants of the van, including driver Oscar Mendez Sr., were injured.
Attorneys for the plaintiffs argued that the accident was caused by a defective Sigma-brand radial tire, which was made by Cooper. The jury made the $10 million award after a six-week trial and nearly three days of deliberation.
Both tire companies released prepared statements after the verdicts, stating why they planned to appeal.
``The evidence did not substantiate the verdict, and numerous evidentiary rulings-including those related to the manufacturing defect issue-were wrong and prejudicial,'' Conti said.
The tire on Ms. Lampe's Taurus was one of 4.6 million Conti produced exclusively for the Taurus and Mercury Sable, the Charlotte, N.C.-based tire maker noted. It had traveled nearly 50,000 miles before the accident occurred.
``A tire that traveled that many miles could not have been defective,'' the company said. ``Not only did the plaintiffs fail to produce a single AmeriTech ST tire that had a defect, but the other original AmeriTech ST tires on the vehicle were found to be free of any defect.''
Cooper, meanwhile, insisted that the Sigma tire did not cause the rollover involving the Mendez van.
``The driver's cocaine impairment plus the pre-accident puncture of the tire are two key factors,'' the tire maker said in a statement issued from its Findlay, Ohio, headquarters. ``Also, the fact that this tire was in service for three years and had more than 30,000 miles help prove the tire was properly manufactured.''