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Fla. bill would target sellers of used tires

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TALLAHASEE, Fla.—A second-term Florida state representative is proposing a bill that would require retailers in the state to disclose to the buyer the age of any used tire they sell, disclose “certain warnings relating to the age of used tires” and keep records on the sale of used tires for at least three years.

The proposed statute, 501.20795, does not forbid the sale of used tires, but it does create a record-keeping requirement and would introduce into the Florida legal system language addressing the safety of tires as they age. Jason Brodeur, a second-term Republican representative from Seminole County, is the bill's author.

Jerome Newsome, a trial attorney with Newsome Melton L.L.P. of Orlando, Fla., and a vocal proponent of tire-aging requirements, claimed the bill is a good deal for highway safety because the retailing of used tires is unregulated.

The Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA), on the other hand, said it's clear that Mr. Brodeur is “working in concert” with the Newsome Melton law firm, and the organization maintained the proposed bill “introduces ambiguity (about aging) to affect litigation.”

The Tire Industry Association (TIA) and the RMA will be “working closely” together to oppose this bill, according to TIA Executive Director Roy Littlefield. TIA said it also is developing a grass-roots campaign with dealers in Florida—which will include testifying, “packing the hearing room” when the bill is debated and organizing a letter-writing the telephone campaign—to defeat the bill.

Regarding the “certain warnings” the proposed legislation would require, the bill states:

“Passenger and light truck tires, including spare tires and tires that are stored or have had little or no use, deteriorate as they age and are more prone to sudden failure that can cause a crash. Heat caused by hot climates can accelerate the aging process. Most vehicle manufacturers recommend that passenger or light truck tires be replaced after six years, regardless of the remaining tread depth.”

In response, the RMA pointed out there is no consensus proof that age affects tire performance.

Mr. Newsome claims that a “disproportionately large number” of tread separations of tires in the state were purchased from a used tire retailer, based on cases involving suspected tread separations Newsome Melton has reviewed.

The attorney did not provide specifics about how many cases were reviewed or how many were suspected tread separations.

In a statement on his firm's website, Mr. Newsome said the new bill “does not create any new civil liability or causes of action, does not affect the ability of consumers to purchase a used tire or a tire older than six years, and will not have any impact on the big industry players who have opposed tire ageing [sic] bills in the past.”

The RMA pointed out the proposed bill is similar to one introduced in 2011 but which never came up for a vote.

The Florida legislation is in recess and not scheduled to reconvene until March 5, although committee hearings likely could take place in January or February.



To reach this reporter: bdavis@ crain.com; 330-865-6145.
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