A product liability case against Bridgestone/Firestone may proceed despite the plaintiffs' destruction of the evidence, the Georgia Court of Appeals has ruled.
A Fulton County, Ga., judge did not abuse his discretion when he ordered the case brought by Ross Campbell to continue, although ``given the evidence presented, the trial court would have been authorized to dismiss Campbell's complaint,'' a three-judge appellate panel ruled Dec. 6.
The panel also decided that Mr. Campbell could introduce pictures of his allegedly defective and now nonexistent Firestone Firehawk tires into evidence.
Mr. Campbell may not, however, use any expert testimony derived from examinations of the tires before they were destroyed, the appeals judges ruled.
BFS, which had sought summary judgment in the case, is ``disappointed'' in the ruling, according to a spokesman in Nashville, where the tire maker is based. ``It's difficult to defend our product when every piece of evidence is destroyed.''
But Tab Turner, the Little Rock, Ark.-based plaintiffs' attorney who represents Mr. Campbell, said the motion for summary judgment was just ``another in a long line of ploys by Firestone and their lawyers to try and deprive the consumer of a fair and reasonable recovery for accidents caused by defective tires.''
Mr. Campbell alleges that tread separations on the rear tires on his Nissan Pathfinder caused his 1998 rollover accident. He suffered brain damage in the accident that affects his balance and short-term memory, according to Mr. Turner.
Mr. Campbell hired a forensic tire engineer to examine the tires for defects but at first decided not to sue and ordered the engineer to chop up the tires after finishing his examination. Mr. Campbell's insurer, meanwhile, destroyed the vehicle.
The BFS spokesman said the tire maker is considering further avenues of appeal.