Suit claims defects in tire, vehicle caused fatal rollover

Michelle Massey, East Texas Bureau Aug. 5, 2009, 10:45am


TEXARKANA, Ark. – While driving a 2000 Ford Explorer on Aug. 11, 2008, Mona Troutman suffered fatal injuries when she lost control of the vehicle and it flipped.

Her family believes the accident was a result of tread separation from a defective tire and the Explorer's "unreasonably dangerous nature of handling and stability."

Paul, Mari, and Adam Troutman, each individually and as statutory beneficiary of Mona Troutman, deceased, and Linda Pharis, individually, filed suit against Cooper Tire and Rubber Co. and Ford Motor Co. on Aug. 4 in the Texarkana Division of the Western District of Arkansas.

As a passenger in the Explorer, Linda Pharis was also injured when the vehicle's right rear tire, a Futura Dakota H/T, allegedly failed due tread separation.

According to the complaint, the vehicle began to uncontrollably swerve after the tread unexpectedly separated from the tire, causing the driver to be "completely unable to maintain control of the vehicle."

"During the rollover, the Explorer's roof crushed, the seat belt restraints failed to keep Mona Troutman and Linda Pharis in contact with their seats, and the side window glazing broke out," the complaint states.

Troutman sustained serious injuries and died 14 days after the accident.

The tire, manufactured at the Cooper Tire in Texarkana, Ark., was unreasonably dangerous and unfit for its intended purposes and foreseeable use due to its defective condition, the plaintiffs argue.

The plaintiffs' complaint argues those defects caused the crash.

Alleging negligence, breach of warranties and failure to warn, the plaintiffs argue that the defendant knew, concealed or failed to disclose of certain defects associated with the tire.

"The defective condition of the tire made it unsafe for operation and rendered it unreasonably dangerous and inconsistent with the representations and warranties to the users thereof," the complaint details.

The plaintiffs contend that a "reasonable, economical and feasible alternative" was available to Cooper Tire that would not have caused or allowed tread separation and thus prevented the rollover.

The plaintiffs maintain that the defendants failed to accurately monitor the field safety record associated with its product, failed to report the related injury data to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and failed to report product design and manufacturing defects.

Further, the suit argues that the 2000 Ford Explorer was unreasonably and dangerously defective and that safer alternatives were available that would have prevented or reduced the risk of injury.

The plaintiffs claim that defendant Ford Motor Co. knew of the Explorer's dangers but failed to warn, correct or take affirmative action to prevent injuries. The complaint states the Explorer has other design defects including problems with control, stability, roof crush and occupant restraints.

The plaintiffs argue that due to the Explorer's alleged defects, the vehicle will "become directionally unstable, uncontrollable and roll over, and that loss of human life and/or severe and permanent injuries will result."

The Troutmans are seeking damages for pain, torment, mental anguish, suffering, medical expenses and damages for the deceased's physical pain and mental anguish.

Plaintiff Linda Pharis is seeking damages for medical expenses, physical pain, mental anguish, physical impairment, disfigurement and loss of life's enjoyment.

Alleging gross negligence, the plaintiffs are also seeking exemplary damages.

Texarkana attorney Darren Anderson and Houston attorneys Robert E. Ammons and Bennett A. Midlo of the Ammons Law Firm LLP are representing the plaintiff.

U.S. District Judge Harry F. Barnes will preside over the litigation.

Case No 4:09cv04084

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