DES MOINES, Iowa (April 25, 2013) — The Iowa Court of Appeals has upheld a $32.8 million jury verdict from 2010 against Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. in a case involving a 2007 accident tied to the failure of a Cooper-brand tire that killed one person and injured several others.
The ruling affirms a 2010 jury verdict issued in Iowa's Polk County District Court that found Cooper Tire responsible for the Sept. 17, 2007, fatal rollover crash involving a group of employees from a local meatpacking plant who were carpooling in a van to work.
In a statement, Cooper said: "We are very disappointed and strongly disagree with the Court of Appeals decision. Cooper Tire is currently exploring all available appellate options."
The crash on Highway 65 between Des Moines and Marshalltown, Iowa, claimed the life of Assata Karlarj, according to attorneys for the plaintiffs. Passenger Ivon Toe was paralyzed in the accident, and Josephine Cole, Sekou Jai, Jailah Nayou and Achol Deng Mawien were severely injured, the records show.
The plaintiffs' attorneys claim trial evidence showed that the rollover crash resulted from a tire defect that caused a catastrophic tread separation of the van's left rear tire.
Cooper claimed at the time of original trial that the "facts show that this tire failed due to service-related conditions outside of the control of Cooper Tire." The company blamed the tire's failure on a nail puncture — "The nail was still in the tire at the time of the accident," it said — plus long-term underinflation operation and road-hazard impact.
The tire in question was a Cooper Lifeliner Classic II tire, according to the plaintiffs' attorneys.
"We are pleased that the appellate court has upheld the jury's decision to hold a company accountable for its actions," said Wesley Todd Ball of Farrar & Ball L.L.P., the plaintiffs' attorneys.
The appellate decision in Ivon Toe, et al. v. Cooper Tire & Rubber Co., et al., No. 3-013/11-1588, was handed down April 24, affirming a jury verdict of more than $31.3 million in actual damages and $1.5 million in punitive damages, Farrar & Ball said.