MARSHALL, TexasTwo Texas families have sued Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. in a federal court in Marshall, accusing the company of strict liability and negligence in a 2012 accident that killed five.
Federico Esquivel Acuna was driving a 2003 GMC Envoy with 11 passengers westbound on Interstate 20 near Marshall on Aug. 20, 2012. The GMC Envoy's seating capacity is listed as five.
The vehicle's right rear tirea Cooper Discoverer ATR, size 245/65R17suffered an alleged tread belt separation, causing the driver to lose control. The vehicle rolled over and hit a road sign, according to the suit filed Dec. 3, 2014, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, Marshall Division.
The tire's DOT code, DOT number UT15 C8E 1508, indicates it was built at Cooper's plant in Texarkana, Ark., in the 15th week of 2008.
The suit is filed on behalf of two families: Federico Esquivel Acuna and Estela Martinz Torres, and Isaias Jaimes and Elida Torres.
Mr. Acuna and all 11 passengers were injured, according to the suit, and five of themthe Acunas' children Yulisa and Saideth Acuna and Rosbelia, Omar and Yurid Jaimes, children of plaintiffs Isias Jaimes and Elida Torresdied from injuries.
Technologically and economically feasible alternative designs existed that would have prevented or significantly reduced the risk of injury without substantially impairing the utility of the product, the complaint said.
Mr. Acuna and the other surviving passengers are entitled to wrongful death and personal injury damages, according to the suit, as well as bystander damages for witnessing the deaths of their children and siblings.
In its Dec. 23 reply brief, Cooper said that 10 of the 12 people in the vehicle, including nine children, were not wearing seat belts or any other restraints and were ejected from the vehicle.
The Findlay, Ohio-based tire maker also said the failed tire on Mr. Acuna's vehicle complied with all federal safety standards and that it was materially altered subsequent to the time it left the control of Cooper, such material alteration being the sole cause and/or contributing cause of any harm and/or damages claimed by plaintiffs.
Cooper did not elaborate on what the material alteration was. Neither the families' suit nor Cooper's initial response mentions where the tire was bought.
The accident, the injuries and/or the harm made the basis of this civil action was caused by the negligence of a third party, or third parties, over whom Defendant Cooper had no control, Cooper's reply brief said.
The plaintiffs are seeking damages in excess of the minimum jurisdictional limits of the court, a sum identified by Cooper as $75,000.
Sico White Hoelscher Harris & Braugh L.L.P. of Corpus Christi, Texas, is representing the plaintiffs.