Defective Tire Recalls

Defective tires can account for many accidents each year, and because of such, millions of defective tires have been recalled in recent years by tire manufacturers including Firestone. Defective tires are handled under strict product liability laws and do not require the victim to prove negligence in order to receive compensation. Instead, victims are urged to demonstrate that the tire defect was “unreasonably dangerous” and caused them harm or their injuries. Errors and design flaws made during the manufacture of tires can be grounds for a lawsuit.

On August 9, 2000, Bridgestone/Firestone and Ford companies announced that Firestone would recall an outstanding 14.4 million tires that contain a safety-related defect. Most of the tires in question were original equipment on Ford vehicles, primarily the Ford Explorer. The recall covers all P235/75 R15 Firestone ATX and ATX II tires (from 1991 to the present) and all P235/75R15 Wilderness AT tires (from 1996 to the present) manufactured at Firestone’s Decatur, IL plant. They estimated that out of the tires covered under the recall, most of these were still on the road.

What was the remedy for the recalled tires?

The defective tires were remedied by being replaced with the Wilderness AT tires from Joliette and Wilson plants. All owners were able to obtain the replacement tires at Firestone/tire & Service Centers, and participating Bridgestone/Firestone retail stores. Owners who wanted to purchase the competitors’ tires will be reimbursed up to $100 per tire. This included mounting and balancing charges/taxes. Bridgestone/Firestone began mailing notification letters to owners on August 26, 2000 and completed the process by October 14, 2000.

Why did the tires fail?

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) received more than 270 complaints about the failing Firestone tires. That included 46 fatalities and at least 80 injuries in total! The complaints alleged that the Firestone tires would peel off their casings, which would sometimes occur while the vehicles were traveling at high speeds. The safety concerns caused companies like Discount Tire, Montgomery Ward, and Sears Roebuck and Co. to stop selling these tires. Most of these reported incidents came from states in warmer climates, due to the fact that heat could affect the tire tread bonding and may have been associated with an increased rate of tread separation. Many reports were made saying that the detreading problem was similar to a peel coming off of a banana.

Company research determined that the company’s research showed that most of the accidents involved tires that were under-inflated. Tire dealers around the country ended up reporting very busy mornings about the defective tires in many situations. Within hours, many of these places were receiving tons of phone calls about the impending issue. However, many dealers couldn’t mention details about the tires because they hadn’t heard information about the recalls just yet.

The included vehicles that these tires were original equipment on were Ford Explorers, Mercury Mountaineers, Ford Ranger pick up trucks, and Mazda Navajo and B-series pick up trucks. They were also sold in the aftermarket. Also, there was nothing in the law that required reimbursement for consumers that have had their tires replaced before a recall was announced. However, the manufacturers, in many cases, reimbursed consumers for customer satisfaction.

If your tires become part of a recall, what should you do?

If you suspect that your tires have been placed under a recall depending on what model you have at any time, be sure to check your tires and make sure that they are always properly inflated to the vehicle manufacturer’s specifications. During the event of any recall, it is important to take proper precautions to prevent accidents. Do not drive over the speed limit, overload your vehicle, wear your seatbelt, and take other preventative measures. If a repair needs to be performed on your tires, have them taken to a professional place like a tire dealer or a vehicle dealer. If you are dealing with a separated tire, guidelines listed in owner manuals may not prevent tire failure.

So, what did the NHTSA do about investigations into the matter?

NHTSA kept the investigation open until they determined whether the scope of Firestone’s recall was completely appropriate. They worked hard to review all data given and sent in to them to determine the scope of the recall to make sure it was justified, or if other tire sizes, additional tires built at other plants, or other tire models should be included. Any time there is a failure to report, you could go and find out more at NHTSA website.

What injuries were noted in the news?

The injury toll was stated to being over 700 total and was linked to 174 U.S. traffic deaths. Ford and Firestone’s long relationship working together sadly came to an end over the lawsuits and Bridgestone made it especially clear that neither party would accept sole responsibility in the matter on the unusually large number of accidents involving Ford Explorer SUV’s with Firestone tires. Many believe that, unfortunately, the deaths reported were only those that were known publicly. It is likely that there were others that have not been attributed to the tires. Another sad fact of the matter is that the companies in union have settled many of the lawsuits in the past under gag orders, which prohibited the lawyers or victims in the cases from talking about them… and as a result of this, safety officials and the public have been kept widely in the dark on the issue.

Even though this specific case happened in the early 2000s, you or a loved one still may have been injured as a result of Firestone tires or another defective product for your vehicle. If this is the case, you may be entitled to compensation. The first step you should take is contacting an attorney you can trust at MDL for your personal injury case. It is important to get the problem straightened out so that more can’t be injured as a result.