Michelin North America Inc. and DaimlerChrysler A.G. have settled a lawsuit in Texas involving the fatal rollover of a 15-passenger church van.
The settlements were reached Oct. 22-the day after jury selection began in Wichita County District Court, 78th Judicial District, in Wichita Falls. DaimlerChrysler is the van's manufacturer while Michelin made the tires on the vehicle.
``Michelin has resolved the suit to its satisfaction and maintains that the 9-year-old tire in question had no quality or workmanship issues,'' the Greenville, S.C.-based tire maker said in a press release. ``The company will have no further comment on the lawsuit,'' it added.
The amount and terms of the settlement were not disclosed.
The lawsuit was brought by the families of 12 women-all members of the First Assembly Church of God in Burkburnett, Texas-who were traveling May 8, 2001, in the Dodge Ram van to an outlet mall. Near Wichita Falls, a Michelin XCH4 tire on the vehicle allegedly lost its tread. This in turn allegedly caused the van to veer out of control and roll over several times, killing four of the women and disabling the other eight.
Plaintiffs accused Michelin of making and selling improperly vulcanized tires without warning DaimlerChrysler or the plaintiffs of the potential dangers. They also claimed the 15-passenger Ram van is unusually susceptible to rollovers, and that DaimlerChrysler knew this before selling the van to the church.
Michelin and DaimlerChrysler, in turn, argued their products were not defective. The tire in question was original equipment on the 1993 van and showed ``clear signs of weathering and abuse,'' Michelin said when the court date was set.
Meanwhile, Michelin faced a further court challenge from Public Citizen and the Center for Auto Safety. In an Oct. 18 brief to the Texas court, the consumer groups claimed the tire maker's motion to seal certain documents and court proceedings in the lawsuit ``exclude(s) the public from an otherwise public process involving products that could potentially affect the lives of numerous other citizens, in Texas and elsewhere.''
Attorney David Perry, of the Corpus Christi law firm of Perry & Haas L.L.P., who represented the families of many of the victims in the case, said in a press release that ``the families of the victims have been fairly and adequately compensated in the settlement.''