Tire manufacturers have long known that tires
by：Tanco Tire,Timax Tyre 2020-09-30
Sean Kane, president of Safety Research and Strategies, obtained the BRMA recommendation-which was never published-and submitted it to NHTSA in September 2003, along with a list of aged-tire cases in the United States and a request to consider requiring expiration dates on tires.In late 2003, the U.S. Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA) Tire Engineering Policy Committee held meetings chaired by a Bridgestone representative and attended by representatives of Continental, Cooper, Goodyear, Michelin, and Pirelli. The committee drafted this recommendation for maximum service life for light-truck and passenger car tires:While most tires will need replacement before 10 years, it is recommended that any tires in service older than 10 years from the date of manufacture be replaced with new tires as a simple precaution (including spare tires), even if such tires appear serviceable (or even if such tires have not reached the legal wear limit).The RMA never disclosed this draft recommendation to the public.Liability theoriesIn almost all aging-tire cases, the lives of unsuspecting consumers have been put at risk unnecessarily because tire manufacturers chose not to provide critically important safety information about the age of their tires and the dangers of age induced tire failure. The evidence may support several liability theories.Failure to warn. The tire manufacturer's failure to adequately warn consumers of the dangers associated with the use of an aged tire is a clear violation of '402A of the Restatement (Second) of Torts: Product Liability (1998):[A product] is defective because of inadequate instructions or warnings when the foreseeable risks of harm posed by the product could have been reduced or avoided by the provision of reasonable instructions or warnings by the seller or other distributor, or a predecessor in the commercial chain of distribution, and the omission of the instruction or warnings renders the product not reasonably safe.For a warning to comply with '402(A), it must be given in a form that can reasonably be expected to catch the attention of the person using the product. A marketing defect, therefore, can be either an ineffective warning or no warning at all. No U.S. tire manufacturer currently provides a written warning about age induced tire failure, so cases involving failures of aged tires will be 'no warning' marketing-defect cases. In certain jurisdictions, the absence of a warning can give rise to a rebuttable presumption that an adequate warning would have been read and followed.Defective design. Manufacturers can reduce the oxidation degradation problem by either elevating the tire's antidegradant chemical content or designing a better, thicker inner liner. Antidegradants are costly, and tire manufacturers use as little as possible. At the same time, inner liners are often designed to be as thin as 0.005 inch, which is much too thin when antidegradant levels are low.As the adhesion between a tire's components begins to break down, constant centrifugal forces work to render the tire more and more susceptible to tread separation. Alternative designs that allow tires to better tolerate these forces reduce the risk of age-related failure. For example, the use of a cap ply (nylon overlay) boosts a tire's ability to withstand long term adhesion fatigue. Advanced by Pirelli in the early 1970s, this technique takes advantage of nylon's shrinking when exposed to heat. When an additional nylon belt is wound over the steel belt and extended over its edges, the nylon contracts during vulcanization and acts as a tourniquet. By holding down the belt edges, the nylon largely prevents separation. Although a cap ply will not completely eradicate age induced failure, this technique will significantly reduce its likelihood.Dealer liability. Tire dealers and repair shops often have internal policies requiring that the tires be inspected before a vehicle is returned to its owner. Advertised as a free additional service, these inspections are nothing more than a self serving marketing ploy. Depending on the policy and respective state law, the inspector may have a legal duty to use reasonable care in performing an inspection. A tire store that allows an aged tire to remain on a vehicle or that places an aged spare into use has potential liability.Common defensesTire manufacturers defend their cases by blaming the consumer or the environment in which the tire was used. Invariably, the manufacturer will claim that improper maintenance, a bad repair, underinflation, or exposure to a road hazard caused the tread separation. Also, the manufacturer will probably claim that the driver failed to properly control the vehicle after the tread separation occurred. Manufacturers bolster their 'blame the consumer' defense by asserting that people should know better than to drive on old tires. Defendants claim that the DOT code serves as an adequate age warning and that common sense should caution consumers about the dangers of driving on old tires. In fact, the overwhelming majority of tire consumers are unaware that a DOT code even exists, let alone where to find it or how to decipher it. Tire manufacturers clearly never intended the DOT code to serve as a consumer warning.The term 'common sense' implies an underlying knowledge, but no such consumer knowledge about aging tires exists. The industry itself is unclear about when a tire should be removed from service. U.S. manufacturers have never issued any recommendation about when tires become dangerous because of their age. Some warranties last five years, others six: Does an expired warranty indicate the tire should be removed from service? Consumers would never throw away a television, microwave, or automobile when the warranty expires. Contrary to what the tire industry would have a jury believe, most consumers are clueless as to when a tire is too old to use safely.Investigating the caseAt the outset of your investigation, retain a well-qualified accident reconstructionist with experience in tread-separation cases and immediately begin to collect evidence. Often, the client does not have the tread that separated from the tire. A wrecker driver or law enforcement officer may have put the tread in the vehicle or stored it elsewhere; more often, the tread and other accident debris have been swept onto the median or shoulder to clear the road for traffic. If the client does not have the tread, undertake an exhaustive search as soon as possible. Recovering the separated tread piece can be important in countering the manufacturer's defenses. The tread's depth can show that the tire had not exceeded its service life, and uniform tread wear is a good indication that the tire had not been consistently used while over- or underinflated. Forensic examination of the tire and tread can rule out damage, underinflation, neglect, and a bad repair as the cause of a tread separation.Also, retain the vehicle involved in the accident. Your expert will use his or her findings from an examination of the vehicle as a basis for the accident reconstruction. For example, analysis of the wheel well and surrounding components often reveals black transfer marks, indicating the extent to which the tire's separating tread struck the vehicle's undercarriage. This creates a drag that pulls the vehicle to the side of the failing tire. The greater the interaction between the separating tread and the vehicle, the more difficult it is for the driver to maintain control. Also, after a tread separation, a vehicle responds to the driver's steering in a way dramatically different from normal. Analysis of the physical evidence on the vehicle can be important in understanding what occurred while the tread was separating and after the tire failed.Also consider retaining a vehicle dynamics expert who can conduct handling tests in which tread separations are induced and their effects on vehicle control scientifically studied. This type of testing and expert testimony can be used to effectively rebut the manufacturer's efforts to blame the driver for losing control after the tread separation occurred.The tire industry has recognized the safety hazard of age-induced tire failure, yet no U.S. manufacturer has provided clear warnings to consumers. Litigation can obtain justice for the injured and motivate tire manufacturers to disseminate critically important safety information.