Join Date: Oct 2001
Location: Not My Legs; Not My Feet
Cooper Tires warning-possible defects? Local litigation article
This is from a local tv news station's website and is written more about the stations 'investigation team' following the procedural aspects of the case than it gives details about the alleged defect(s), but I thought it worth noting.
Cooper Tires, the 4th largest tire maker, is now on trial in downtown Phoenix.
The company says its tires are strong and durable and the accusations against its tires are based in attorney greed, but Cooper Tires will not allow you to see internal memos which may concern your safety on the road.
A jury is now considering whether defects in a Cooper tire led to a fatal crash.
Cameras are denied from the courtroom and court transcripts are sealed, but the 5i-Team is there, providing you with the only link to the information inside.
The accident cost the Franco-Flores family their mother and father. Virginia Flores Duran and Bartolo Franklin Molino died after the tread separated in a tire on a pickup their daughter Norma was driving.
The implications of their allegations go beyond one tire -- partly because of the testimony of the Plaintiff's expert witness -- Dennis Carlson testified to all 50 states' Attorneys General in the Firestone Tire case. He claims this case is just as big -- and he points to Cooper Tires' own inner office memos.
While you aren't allowed access to those documents, the 5i-Team listened to Carlson as he described several tire defects.
He accused Cooper Tires of using inner liners that were too thin and made with inferior materials in order to save money.
The inner liner is like an inner tube that keeps the compressed air inside the tire. He said Coopers' manufacturing practice leads to more air than usual getting through the inner liner and into the outer layers of the tire. The oxygen that gets through is what he says deteriorates those layers and contributes to a tread separation.
The jury is considering all of the evidence, but again, the documents are sealed by the court.
Cooper Tires says the memos are proprietary -- trade secrets -- including information about which parts of the country they've seen more tread separations."
Attorney Larry Coben told us, "There's no question that sealing these documents hurts public safety because the consumer is left without the knowledge."
Coben isn't working on this Cooper Tire case, but says he's seen confidentiality agreements cost lives in cases ranging from the Ford Pinto to Firestone.
"So the Federal Government doesn't learn about it, other litigants have to fight it each time themselves and the public is just exposed to this huge risk."
Attorneys for Cooper Tire say they can't talk on camera but say their tires are strong and durable and that the jury alone will sort through the facts in the confidential memos.
Defense Lawyers say it's not really Cooper Tires on trial, but one fatal accident. The company says its sympathetic to the family, but it blames the driver for speeding and not maintaining her tires and alleges that the mother and father failed to wear their seat belts.
The Defense Attorneys also call Dennis Carlson a professional witness who's testified against at least 12 other tire companies and gets $350 an hour to testify.
The tire in question -- the 1997 made Dakota Futura HT -- hasn't been recalled.
Cooper Tires don't always show the Cooper name and they're sold at tire specialty outlets.
We're going to push the issue of the sealed documents. The 5i team is planning to file a motion so we can report to you what's in those papers so that you can make educated choices about your family's safety.
I'm doin the best that I can.