Cooper Tire sued over fatal roll-over in Mexico

By Michelle Massey, East Texas Bureau | Apr 16, 2009

TEXARKANA, Ark. -- While traveling in Mexico in December 2007, one passenger was killed and several were injured when the 1997 Ford Explorer in which they were riding left the road and rolled over. The passengers believe the accident was caused by the tread on the vehicle's left rear tire suddenly and unexpectedly separating from the tire body.

Jose Cruz, individually and as a personal representative of the estate of Irene S. Salas, and Irene Guerrero, Jorge Amezquita, and Miriam Amezquita filed suit against Cooper Tire and Rubber Company on April 13, 2009 in the Texarkana Division of the Western District of Arkansas.

The tire that blew, a Cooper Discoverer H/T, was manufactured in Texarkana, Ark., in 2004. The lawsuit argues that Cooper Tire knew the tire presented an unreasonably dangerous condition and that it possessed certain defects.

The plaintiffs state the tire did not contain measures to prevent tread separation, specifically, it did not incorporate a "belt wedge," nylon cap ply, or nylon edge strips and failed to employ a high-halobutyl content inner liner.

Further, the plaintiffs argue that the tire did not incorporate an effective chemical to prevent premature aging of the tire materials and the tire was poorly bonded allowing premature failure and tread separation.

The complaint states, "economically and technologically feasible design alternatives were available to Defendant Cooper Tire at the time the Discoverer tire in question left the hands of said Defendant, however, Defendant Cooper Tire knowingly and intentionally failed to incorporate any such safer alternative designs into the Discoverer line of truck tires."

The plaintiffs argue the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards are inapplicable to the defective aspects of the design to protect the public from unreasonable risks.

The lawsuit states the defendant is liable for common law negligence for failing to monitor its product and failing to report to the NHTSA any injury-related data.

Further causes of action filed against Cooper Tire include breach of express and implied warranties, post-sale failure to warn, recall or retrofit.

The plaintiffs are seeking damages for pecuniary loss, loss of maintenance, support, services, advice of counsel, loss of companionship and society, loss of benefits from the love, comfort, companionship, and society, and mental anguish.

Other damages sought include pain and mental anguish, physical pain, loss of earning capacity, disfigurement, physical impairment, emotional pain, torment, and suffering, medical expenses, funeral and burial expenses.

Seeking exemplary damages, the plaintiffs argue the defendant's actions were not the "result of a simple mistake, accident or inadvertence," but acted with the knowledge that consumers of its products could suffer bodily injury or death from the result of the defective design.

A jury trial is requested.

Texarkana attorney Darren Anderson, League City attorney Chad B. Matthews of Matthews and Forester, San Antonio attorney Reynaldo L. Diaz, Jr, and League City attorney Nathan A. Hardee are representing the plaintiffs in their allegations.

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

Case No 4:2009cv04033

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