Michelin North America Inc. was exonerated recently by a Riverside County, Calif., circuit court jury in a vehicle rollover case involving a church van and a Michelin LTX light truck tire.
After a six-week trial, the jury accepted the word of Michelin's expert witness that impact damage to the left rear tire of the 15-passenger van-which occurred about 1,000 miles before the April 2003 accident-caused the tire to fail and that the tire itself contained no defect.
However, the jury on April 4 did find St. Theresa Parish in Phoenix, and the Archdiocese of Phoenix liable for the accident and awarded the six women plaintiffs-all passengers in the van-a total of $2.4 million.
``Michelin was confident of the facts of the case and is pleased the jury saw that this tire was properly manufactured,'' the Greenville, S.C.-based tire maker said.
Michelin agreed not to seek court costs against the plaintiffs in return for their agreement not to appeal the verdict against the tire maker, said Charles LiMandri, the Rancho Santa Fe, Calif.-based attorney who represented the plaintiffs. The Archdiocese of Phoenix and St. Theresa's also have decided not to appeal the judgment, he added.
Ford Motor Co., which manufactured the van, settled with the plaintiffs shortly after the suit was filed.
The van was returning from a religious retreat in Duarte, Calif., to its home parish when the tire failed on Interstate 10 in Riverside County.
The resulting rollover caused various severe and permanent injuries to the plaintiffs, including facial disfigurement, brain injury and impaired use of limbs, according to a release from Yukevich Calfo & Cavanaugh, the Los Angeles firm representing Michelin.
The lawsuit claimed the failed tire, produced at the firm's Dothan, Ala., plant in 1995, contained an undetermined contaminant, which caused it to come apart. However, Thomas Dodson of Akron-based Smithers Scientific Services Inc., Michelin's expert witness during the trial, demonstrated the impact damage in his testimony and said there was no evidence of any contaminant in the tire.