Michelin and Takata Beat $80M Lawsuit
Michelin and Takata won’t have to face an $80 million verdict alleging that a defective Michelin tire and a faulty Takata seat belt caused traumatic brain injuries for one driver. The driver was driving a 2005 Chevy Trailblazer in Fort Pierce, Florida in 2009. According to the complaint, the SUV was traveling on I-95 when the driver lost control of the vehicle, causing it to turn over three and a half times. Two teenagers in the vehicle were ejected during the crash. Both suffered severe brain injuries as a result of the one-car accident.
The plaintiffs were seeking $80 million alleging that the blown tire was singularly responsible for the accident. They also alleged that the defective seat belts contributed to the severity of the two teens’ injuries and resulted in them being ejected from the vehicle.
Jury Rules in Favor of Michelin & Takata
In this lawsuit, Michelin was able to provide evidence to the jury that the tire had been damaged and then resold to the owner of the vehicle, absolving the company of liability. It was an effective argument because the tire left the stream of commerce, had work done on it, and then re-entered the stream of commerce. This doesn’t mean that the plaintiffs don’t have a lawsuit. It only means that they can’t target Michelin in the lawsuit, which is unfortunate for them. Instead, they’ll have to file a lawsuit against a much smaller company that released a defectively repaired tire into the stream of commerce. Michelin also provided evidence that the Trailblazer could easily be controlled if one of the tires blew out.
Takata argued that the teens weren’t wearing their seatbelts at all. The plaintiffs were unable to prove that they were. The plaintiffs had argued that the seatbelts were defective because they could unlatch when they were hit by the elbow of one of the passengers. However, that seemed like such a random event that it proved unlikely that it would happen to two people involved in the same accident. If only one of the passengers was ejected, perhaps the argument would have been more successful. Takata provided the jury with evidence that the seatbelts met federal safety standards.
Blaming the Victims
In cases like these, large companies defending their products against civil lawsuits have, as their best strategy, the right to blame the victim for causing the accident. Short of that, they can blame another third party. In this case, the plaintiffs alleged that Michelin was responsible for manufacturing the defective tire, but Michelin lost control of the tire once it was patched and then sold used. Their strategy of blaming the third party that sold the tire to the driver paid off. Additionally, had the tire been theirs, they would have argued that the Trailblazer was easy to control if a tire blew and that the driver could have controlled the vehicle if they handled the situation properly.
Takata was able to beat their product liability claim by arguing that the kids in the car were never wearing their seatbelt in the first place. The plaintiffs could provide no evidence that wasn’t the case.
Talk to a Defective Tire Lawyer Today
If you believe that a defective tire caused your injuries, the Coral Gables tire defect attorneys at Halpern, Santos & Pinkert have the experience you need to handle your claim. Set up a free consultation today.