Goodyear and Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc. are the targets of class-action lawsuits in New York and California alleging that Dunlop-brand run-flat tires on all-wheel-drive (AWD) Toyota Sienna minivans from model year 2004 and beyond are defective.
Goodyear said the suits erroneously identify Goodyear Dunlop Tire North America as the manufacturer of the run-flat tires. In fact, Sumitomo Rubber Industries Ltd. makes the tires, Dunlop SP Sport 4000T, in Japan for Toyota. Sumitomo will handle the litigation, the company added.
The New York lawsuit was filed Oct. 31 before the New York Supreme Court, the usual trial court in that state. Roger Bernstein, a New York City plaintiffs' attorney involved in the class action, said there was no way at present to tell the number of potential plaintiffs in the case, but he added it would be more than 10,000.
The California class action, filed originally in the Superior Court for Alameda County Sept. 12, was moved to federal court under the recently passed Class Action Fairness Act, according to Mark Anderson, a San Francisco plaintiffs' attorney who helped to file the suit. The new law-supported by the tire industry and signed by President Bush last February-states that class actions with a potential monetary value above $5 million must be heard in federal court.
Mr. Anderson, who said his case involved at least 4,000 potential plaintiffs, said he planned to file a motion shortly to get the action remanded to the Alameda Superior Court.
TV stations in San Francisco were the first to air stories about Bridgestone and Dunlop original equipment (OE) run-flat tires on AWD Toyota Siennas allegedly failing or wearing out after approximately 10,000 miles. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has received an unspecified number of complaints about the tires and is reviewing them, but has not opened a formal investigation, the agency said.
When asked why Bridgestone/Firestone wasn't a defendant in the class actions, the attorneys explained that a substantial majority of the OE run-flat tires on the Sienna are Dunlops. It depends on the facts uncovered in the cases whether Bridgestone will subsequently be named, Mr. Bernstein said.
A Toyota spokesman said his company doesn't comment on pending litigation or reveal the number of complaints it has received on any of its vehicles. Complaint figures are proprietary, he said.
Any Dunlop owners who are dissatisfied with their tires have been advised to contact their nearest Dunlop dealers, Goodyear said. If they need any further assistance, they should call (800) 321-2136, the company added.