A Texas jury has ordered Michelin North America Inc. to pay nearly $12 million in a case involving a 2006 tire-related accident in Mexico that left six people dead and a 10-year-old boy permanently paralyzed.
The accident, which occurred Dec. 31, 2006, near Matamoros, Mexico, involved a 2002 Ford F-150 pickup truck that was involved in a head-on crash when a Michelin-made BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A tiresize 285/75R16, load range Don the truck allegedly suffered a tread separation.
The truck, driven by Jesus Guzman Reyes, swerved into the path of a Chevrolet Suburban driven by Ariel Flores. Mr. Flores, his wife, their two sons and two other boys were killed, and Mr. Reyes' son Jesus Guzman, then 10 years old, was left paralyzed.
Michelin maintains the evidence shows the tire did not fail before the accident but was damaged in the accident.
The case was heard before the 197th Judicial District Court, Willacy County, Texas.
Attorneys for the plaintiff families argued that:
*The tire design was inherently defective;
*A leak in the roof at Michelin's Tusca-loosa, Ala., tire plant had damaged the equipment used to make the tire; and
*Michelin had failed to warn potential buyers of the defect in the tires.
Attorneys for Greenville, S.C.-based Michelin argued that the tire on the Guzmans' truck met all applicable federal safety standards, and that Mr. Reyes was speeding at the time of the accident.
Jose Lopez, owner of the truck driven by Jesus Guzman Reyes, also had not properly cared for the truck or the tires, the company contended.
Surviving relatives of the Flores family and their passengers received about $6.5 million of the damages in the Sept. 10 verdict. Jesus Guzman, however, received the largest single amount$4 millionwith his relatives receiving slightly less than $1.5 million in aggregate.
Michelin and the plaintiffs' attorneys entered into a confidential High-Low agreement before the jury verdict, according to Mikal Watts, an attorney representing the Flores family. This means the parties agreed to upper and lower limits for damages and waived their rights to appeal, he said.
A Michelin spokeswoman reiterated the company's position that the tire was not defective.
We are convinced, and the tire forensics clearly show, that the tire failed as a result of the collision, she said. The evidence shows not that the tire failed before the crash, but that the damage to the tire lined up exactly to the damage to the wheel, demonstrating that the tire and the wheel both were damaged in the collision.
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