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Perhaps the single most important component in vehicle safety is a

reliable tire. When investigating a claim involving a serious injury or
death, it is important to inspect the tires of all the vehicles involved
in the crash. You may discover that a tire defect, tires that are too old
and degraded, or tires that were subject to recall contributed to the
accident. We hope this book will help you to know what questions to
ask as you evaluate your potential tire case, and how to get started.

Ben Baker is a lawyer in the Products
Liability section of Beasley Allen Law
Firm. In his practice, Ben has been
involved in cases against automobile
manufacturers for over 20 years.
Among his many successes, Ben was on
the trial team that obtained a
$3 million verdict against Toyota in
2013. Ben has also obtained record
$16.8 million and $12 million verdicts
against cab guard manufacturers
involving defective products. Ben is a
graduate of Cumberland School of Law.
By Benjamin E. Baker
Tire Litigation: A Primer
By Benjamin E. Baker

Produced by the law firm of Beasley, Allen, Crow, Methvin, Portis & Miles,
P.C.
218 Commerce Street
Montgomery, Alabama 36104
(334) 269-2343

© 2017 Beasley Allen Law Firm
All Rights Reserved
Published 2017
Printed in the United States of America
First Edition

Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information
herein. However, author and Beasley Allen Law Firm are not responsible
for any errors or omissions which might have occurred.
Introduction 1

Chapter 1 – What is a Tire Defect Case? 5

Chapter 2 – Investigation / Evaluation 15
Do You Have a Lawsuit? 16
What is The Product? 20
Who Made the Product? 22
The DOT Number 23
Purchase / Tire Maintenance 26
The Proper Application 30
Vehicle door placard 30
Proper tire size 31
The Collection and Preservation of Evidence 38
The Expert Tire Inspection 45

Chapter 3 – Common Litigation Issues 47
Design Defects 48
Belt wedge & Nylon wrap / cap ply 49
Inadequate rubber compounding 53
Improper cure temperature 54
Poor Inner Liner Design 54
Manufacturing Defects 56
Liner pattern marks 56
Trapped air 59
Poor belt alignment 60
Premature oxidation 72
Inner liner splice 74
Porosity 75
Foreign material contamination 76
Warning Defects 78
Vehicle Handling Issues 79
Importer Liability 82
Tire Aging 86
Automaker recommendations 88
Retailer Liability 89
Tire recalls 91

Chapter 4 – Typical Defenses 93
Under inflation 94
Overloading 96
Maintenance 97
Impact damage 97
Improper repairs 98
Punctures 98
Driver actions 99

Conclusion 101

Acknowledgments 103
Citations 104
Index 108
"I fell asleep, and when I woke up, I was outside of the bus. […]
People had to tell me what happened and what was going on."1

“What was going on” was that this teenager’s bus blew a front tire
while taking him and his teammates to a football game.2 Another
survivor, who had also been asleep, was awakened by the sound of
the blow-out.3

The bus was forced into a guardrail and concrete bridge column.4
This teenager was lucky, as were more than forty others, but four
died at the scene – two of whom had been thrown from the bus as
well, but their injuries were fatal.5 Among the dead was a 10-year-
old boy.6

֎

A jailer assisted two prisoners’ escape.7 The jail break resulted in a
high-speed chase with police.8 The suspects initially escaped
capture because the deputy in pursuit was hindered by a tire
blowout.9

֎

A husband and wife had traveled to the beach for a long weekend
to spend time with family and friends. As they returned home,
traveling on the Interstate, the driver heard a “thud” in the right
rear wheel well. The next thing he remembers was the rear of the
vehicle swinging “wildly.” The vehicle left the road and
overturned. Although properly belted, his wife did not survive the
wreck. The right rear tire suffered a tread belt separation, even
though the tread depth was half worn on the tire.

1
֎

These stories are just three out of thousands and thousands that
depict the catastrophes that can result from tire blowouts and tread
belt separations.

Why did these blowouts happen? Had the driver run over a nail
recently? How about a new car’s tires?

These are the types of questions asked by victims of tire failures
who may approach you, asking if they can sue someone for their
damages and losses.

“What should I be looking for?” This is the question that is most
often asked of me by lawyers who I meet or with whom I have
been associated to work on litigation matters.

For more than twenty years, I have focused on working on
complex products liability cases, primarily automotive
crashworthiness and tire defect-related cases. These cases can be
very complicated and require an understanding and consideration
for engineering and safety principles that apply to the manufacture
and design of automobiles and the tires used on automobiles.

Most of the cases that I have litigated involved single vehicle
accidents where individuals were seriously injured or killed as a
result of product design or manufacturing defects. Had
manufacturers simply followed recognized engineering safety
standards or industry protocols, the injuries and deaths could have
been avoided.

Since I have been asked so many times over the years what to look
for when attempting to identify a potential products liability case, I
decided to put together this book as a primer to understanding
what to look for in a potential tire defect case.

2
This book is only a primer to give lawyers an idea of the factors
and issues that should be considered when evaluating a potential
defect case. I have not attempted to touch on every issue or topic,
but merely provide lawyers with the basics of what they should be
considering when a potential client presents themselves at their
office.

3
5
“It is a well-accepted principle throughout the tire industry that the
fatigue life of a tire should exceed its tread life by some design/
safety margin for reasonably foreseeable service conditions.”10

More than 11,000 crashes in the United States a year, at least, are
due to tire failure issues.11 This fact alone makes clear how
necessary tire litigation is but obscures the complexities and
variables in each situation and every potential lawsuit.

Tire defect cases can cover a multitude of potential products
liability issues. Tires can fail based upon their design, their
manufacture, or the installation process. For example, tires can fail
in their sidewalls, and injuries can occur as a result of explosions
that can occur when mounting tires on multi-piece rims.

Tire failures, blowouts and detreads are foreseeable and
preventable events. As noted above, manufacturers know that tire
treads will wear with proper use and at some point fail if not
serviced properly and replaced after their intended period of use
has expired. Most new tires made today are estimated to last
between 60,000 and 80,000 miles.

Obvious tire defects may be detected with a visual or cursory
surface inspection when the tire is first installed and inflated.
These include bulges, lumps, cracks and noticeable air leakage.
Technicians should be checking for tire defects when any service
work is done on the vehicle and its tires.

Additionally, there can be catastrophic events when tire installers
attempt to install tires on the wrong size rim. This is sometimes
called a “mismatch” circumstance.

As I will discuss later in more detail, tire tread separation can be
caused by bonding problems in the tire manufacturing process,
contaminants introduced into the tire during the tire making
process, under-vulcanization, old ingredients, improper sized

6
components, or something as simple as air being trapped in
between the layers of the tire during manufacturing.

Detreading of these defective tires can result in single- or multi-
vehicle accidents, or even rollovers. Even the auto manufacturers
agree that drivers should have the ability to pull over, not roll over,
when a tire detreads. But that is unfortunately not always the case.

Rather than attempt to address all the potential tire defect issues,
this book will be limited to late-life catastrophic tire failures on
vehicles that are traveling at highway speeds and suffer a tread belt
separation or delamination. (See Fig. 1, 2, 3 and 4)

Fig. 1

7
Fig. 2

Fig. 3

8
Fig. 4

Oftentimes, these events cause vehicles to become uncontrollable
and result in serious injuries and death. (See Fig. 5a and 5b)

Fig. 5a

9
Fig. 5b

One of the most famous examples of this type of tire litigation is
the Ford/Firestone litigation involving the Firestone ATX, ATXII,
and Wilderness AT tires that resulted in congressional hearings in
2000 regarding the numerous injuries and deaths caused by the
tread belt separation failures of these tires when paired with the
Ford Explorer.

“I felt my eyes rolling and I felt blood on my face,” recalled Dr.
Hoel Rodriguez.12 How did he sustain these injuries? His Ford
Explorer had rolled over after a Bridgestone/Firestone tire
failure.13 His sister-in-law’s injuries resulted in permanent
paralysis.14 Five months after this accident and after 203 deaths
and more than 700 injuries, Firestone finally recalled 6.5 million of
its tires.15

When offered a $6 million settlement, the Rodriguez family
reportedly declined and instead demanded $100 million.16 The
plaintiffs’ attorney addressed the jury in his opening remarks by
saying, "Firestone failed to take appropriate steps to keep families
from using this tire. […] This corporation put money over the
safety of its customers."17

10
Sadly, these defects first became evident years earlier – in 1996;
documentary evidence proved that a Ford Explorer did a full flip
after a trainee test driver merely changed lanes at just over 50
mph.18

One attorney reported having his first Firestone/Ford Explorer case
in 1998; then he began to see more and more similar cases.19 In
one of those cases, he sent the defective tire to a local expert who
replied, “I have a room full of them.”20 The expert’s response
made the lawyer realize what was happening; he said, "I'm just a
two-man law firm in Coral Gables, Fla., and the trend was obvious
to me."21

The Ford/Firestone litigation raised awareness of vehicle handling
sensitivity when a vehicle experiences a tread belt separation. The
litigation brought to light the necessity of a manufacturer’s
attention to significant and repeated numbers of failures in its
products.

“Mr. Speaker, according to NHTSA, rollovers are
the second most common type of fatal crash after
head-on crashes for all cars – but it is the most
common type of fatal crash for light trucks, which
includes SUVs, pickup trucks and minivans. […]
After all, protecting the public and making sure that
the agency charged with automotive safety issues
has the resources to do its job is really where the
‘rubber meets the road’ on this policy issue […].”22

On October 10, 2000, Congressman Edward Markey of
Massachusetts gave the above speech on the Floor of the House of
Representatives in favor of the Transportation Recall
Enhancement, Accountability and Documentation (TREAD) Act.23
The Ford/Firestone litigation resulted in this legislation, which
requires manufacturers to monitor and report specific product
failures to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
(NHTSA) as an early warning system to recognize safety defect

11
trends in products that may represent a significant hazard to
consumers.

The Ford/Firestone litigation also revealed that there can be
significant issues related to the design and manufacture of tires
that, if not properly addressed through engineering, can result in
premature catastrophic tire failures, which could otherwise be
avoided through the use of well-recognized and accepted
countermeasures to increase the robustness of any passenger or
light truck tire design.

Late-life tire failures represent a significant safety problem for
consumers. Data from the National Automotive Sampling System-
Crashworthiness Data System (NASS-CDS) shows that from 1995
through 2006 there were an estimated 17,019 tow away crashes per
year as a result of “blow-outs or flat tires.” These incidents
resulted in 386 fatalities and 11,005 non-fatal injuries.24 (Fig. 6)

Table 1: Light Vehicle Tire-related Crashes, Fatalities and Injuries
(Annual Averages)
NASS-CDS 1995-2006 2007-2010
Crashes 17,019 11,047
Fatalities 386 195
Injuries 11,005 6,361
Fig. 6 (Table 1 from Pg. 13 of the NHTSA report referenced above.)

In the same time frame, there were 6,024,000 overall police-
reported crashes. The overall fatality rate for these was 41,059
fatalities. More recent data spanning 2007 to 2010 shows 11,047
tow-away crashes per year related to “blow-outs or flat tires.”
During this time period, the fatalities were shown to be 195 with
6,361 non-fatal injuries.25

Hundreds of deaths and thousands of injuries from tire failure
should motivate preventative action because even one death or
injury is too many. But, sadly, manufacturers often refuse to take

12
the necessary safety precautions until their carelessness is revealed
in a courtroom. Thus, your case may prove to help the lives of not
only the current victims – your clients – but also the lives of
potentially thousands of other drivers and passengers.

13
15
Do You Have a Lawsuit?26

Any products liability lawsuit, and particularly a tire defect case, is
very expensive to pursue. Products litigation requires the expense
of retaining multiple expert engineers, medical experts, and often
the expense of buying multiple products for testing.

There are many issues that go into proving that a tire defect
proximately caused an accident and/or injuries to a client. Thus,
having experts to support your claim is essential to moving
forward with filing a lawsuit. Experts can assist you in drafting
discovery and narrowing your search for relevant industry
information.

Tire defect cases require the retention of very experienced and
knowledgeable experts in the following areas:
(1) accident reconstruction;
(2) tire design and manufacturing defects; and
(3) injury causation or biomechanical issues.

Additionally, in order to respond to a manufacturer’s defenses, it is
often necessary to have a vehicle handling expert that can explain
why the driver lost control in the tread belt separation event.
Depending on the type of case, it may also be necessary to employ
specialized medical care experts that can provide information
related to past and future medical care needs that could include a
life care plan. Lastly, in cases where there has been a death or the
need for lifelong medical care, it is not unusual to require the
services of an expert economist who can explain the present day
value of the economic losses suffered by a client.

The cost of proving a tire defect case can quickly rise to $250,000
to $500,000. Therefore, to pursue a tire defect case, it often
requires significant non-fatal catastrophic injuries or death to
justify the time and expense that is necessary to put together the
team that will be needed to prove a tire defect case.

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One of the best ways to determine whether you have a lawsuit
depends on whether you have the factors to establish the lawsuit
“Triangle.”27

The lawsuit Triangle consists of the following factors (Fig. 7):
1. Liability
2. Damages
3. Solvent Defendant

In evaluating whether you have a tire defect lawsuit, if any one of
these three factors or “sides” of the lawsuit Triangle is missing,
then you should not move forward with the lawsuit.

For example, we investigated a case that involved one fatality and
multiple injuries where an SUV suffered a rear axle tread belt
separation while traveling on the Interstate. The tire itself had
recently been purchased used from a local retailer that sold mostly
used tires. At the time the tire was purchased, the tire was more
than ten years old. When the tire was analyzed after the wreck,
there was evidence that a nail had penetrated the tread and the
inner liner for the tire.

17
Additionally, physical evidence on the tire indicated that there
were a number of maintenance related issues that may have
contributed to the failure of the tire. Based on this evidence, there
did not appear to be a defect in the tire that caused it to fail.
However, there was a potential issue of retailer liability for selling
a used tire that was more than ten years old. Further investigation
revealed that the local retailer had no liability insurance to cover
the sale of the used tire.

Therefore, when plugging these factors into the lawsuit triangle, it
was clear that there was no liability as it related to the design or
manufacture of the tire. However, though there was potential
liability against the local retailer, it was not a solvent defendant.
Thus, we did not have the necessary factors to create the litigation
triangle. Unfortunately for the clients, we were required to turn
down the case since there was no way to obtain a recovery for the
clients.

Assuming that your potential case meets the requirements of the
“Triangle,” then you should determine if the potential case has
factors necessary to support the lawsuit “Square.”28

A lawsuit “Square” requires an evaluation of the following (Fig.
8):
1. Jurisdiction/Venue
2. Defense Attorney
3. Plaintiff’s Expert Witness(es)
4. Plaintiff’s Appearance and Demeanor

18
While the “Triangle” and the “Square” intersect in ways, the
“Square” is more about the quality of the potential suit as opposed
to whether the suit should be brought at all. Some of the “Square”
factors may be unknown or not as favorable but may still justify
bringing the lawsuit. If any of the “Triangle” factors are missing,
the lawsuit should not be filed.

When considering the “Square,” always keep in mind what a well-
learned defense attorney can do with these factors to use them
against you. If these factors weigh more heavily against you and
benefit the defendant more, then the case evaluation would weigh
on the side of not filing. But in no event should a complex tire
defect product case be filed if the “Triangle” factors cannot be met.

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What is the Product?

It is the rubber that meets the road, and it is the air within that
rubber that keeps the car rolling.29 Tires are the only thing between
the driver and passengers and the ground – between the vehicle
passengers and a wreck.30

Tires are often called pneumatic tires.31

For example, radial tires – the most typically used – are
constructed with plies of fabric or steel cords, aligned 90 degrees
to the beads.32 Additional tread plies ensure stability of direction
and resistance to punctures.33 Plies are cords twisted into cables,
“laid side by side” and covered in rubber to create a uniform
sheet.34

The tire industry explains the process in more detail:

The basic manufacturing process for a radial tire
starts with a thin layer of air-tight synthetic rubber
called an innerliner. The casing ply is then added
before two strong hoops of steel wire called bead
bundles are put in place to anchor the sidewall ply
and eventually hold the tire against the rim.

Next, the casing ply is folded over the beads before
the sidewall and bead rubber is added. Then a
special drum shapes the tire so an even number of
tread plies can be positioned on the casing under the
tread.35

Every tire contains some natural rubber, regardless of the
manufacturer or design.36 But the rubber has to be mixed with
carbon black, silica, sulfur, synthetic rubber, and many other
ingredients – with as many as 200 compounds.37 The purpose of
the tires determines what ingredients are used.38 Snow, all-terrain

20
tires have different properties more suitable to traction than touring
tires, which are built for mileage on paved roads.39

The rubber mixture is then formed into an uncured tire, called a
“green tire.”40 The green tire is placed into a mold with tread
design and information on the sidewall (to be discussed further
later); the tire is shaped and pressed against the mold by inflating it
with hot water or steam.41 Next, the tire is vulcanized – the
process of heating the rubber to cure it and bond the ingredients.42

After vulcanizing the tire and removing it from the mold, it is
thoroughly inspected for bubbles, voids in the tread or other part of
the tire, and other flaws.43 Lastly, it is tested by spinning on a test
wheel before being available for distribution.44

This is only a generic description of the tire manufacturing
process. During discovery, it may be necessary to determine if a
particular manufacturer has a process that differs in any way from
the generic tire manufacturing process.

21
Who Made the Product?
Once it is determined that there is a viable case to pursue, you
must identify the tire product and its manufacturer, so you can file
suit and develop appropriate discovery to prove your case.

Manufacturers that produce tires within the United States include
BFGoodrich, Cooper, Firestone, Dunlop, Goodyear, Michelin, and
Yokohama.45 But even these tires are an international effort.46
Michelin is based in France, and Firestone is owned by
Bridgestone, which is a Japanese company, just as Yokohama is.47
Even more complex is that Goodyear has been known to build tires
not just in the U.S. but also in Canada, Chile, and Germany.48
Michelin builds tires in Italy and Spain, besides the U.S., though
none in France – despite the company’s headquarters in France.49
China has even begun flooding the U.S. market with tires.

In a tire defect case, the tire itself is going to provide you with
most of the information you need about identifying the
manufacturer. In most cases, the name of the manufacturer is
going to be stamped on the side of the tire in some form or fashion.
(Fig. 9)

Fig. 9

22
In other instances, tires will have a name brand stamped on the
side that does not necessarily provide any indication of who the
manufacturer is. (Fig. 10)

Fig. 10

In such instances, you must rely on other information that is
provided with the tire.

The DOT Number

The sidewall of each tire is stamped with information that can assist
you – most important, with the Department of Transportation, or
DOT, number. The DOT number will include information such as
the manufacturer and plant code, tire size code as well as optional
code information that could identify a manufacturer’s specific
brand. (Fig. 11 50)

23
24
Fig. 11
Federal law requires that each tire sold include a DOT number that
indicates the tire has met or exceeded Federal Motor Vehicle
Safety Standards related to the new tire performance requirements
established by the Federal Government. The DOT number is not
always on the side of the tire that faces out (often called the serial
opposite side of the tire). The DOT number can often times be
found on the side of the tire that is turned inward toward the
vehicle (known as the serial side).

As shown below, the DOT number is readily identifiable as it
begins with “DOT.” (Fig.12) The DOT code includes a code to
identify the manufacturer, as well as the identification of the plant
where the tire was manufactured. Finally, a DOT number should
end in four digits, known as the date code, which indicate the week
and year of manufacture.

Fig. 12 – Image courtesy Safercar.gov/NHTSA

If the tire was manufactured before the year 2000, it most likely
will not end with the typical four digits shown in Fig. 12. Since
2000 the date code has four digits. The first two digits are the week
of the year (01 = first week of January); the third digit (for tires
made before 2000) is the year (1 =1991). For most tires made after

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2000, the third and fourth digits are the year (04 = 2004). So if the
date code reads 0806, the tire was manufactured in the eighth week
of 2006.

Again, as mentioned above, please note that the four-digit week
and year of manufacture code was not necessarily required until
the year 2000; thus, some tires manufactured before the year 2000
may not contain a four-digit code as to the week and year of
manufacture. Thus, a tire with a three-digit date code can be a first
warning sign that a tire may be dangerously old. The date upon
which a tire is manufactured can be important information
depending on the issues that are raised in the case. More about
these specific issues will be discussed below.

Purchase / Tire Maintenance

Some of the important information to collect during the initial case
evaluation will relate to the identification of the retailer that sold
the defective tire and/or installer. In some jurisdictions, any entity
within the distribution chain can be held liable for a defective
product, including the retailer. However, another reason to identify
the retailer or installer is for independent torts and/or to obtain
information to respond to certain defenses raised by the
manufacturer.

Manufacturers will argue, “With no dependable system in place to
ensure tire safety, it falls to the consumer to be vigilant.” Statistics
to keep in mind as you are preparing for likely defenses include
that a recent National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
(NHTSA) report revealed that 9 percent of passenger cars on U.S.
roadways are driven with at least one bald tire. Additionally, the
NHTSA says 27 percent of passenger cars on U.S. roadways are
driven with one or more substantially underinflated tires.
Manufacturers are sure to point to these statistics. However, these
statistics also provide manufacturers with knowledge of forseeable

26
uses by consumers that should impact their design process and
design safety margins.

The government has created a website called “SaferCar.gov.” It
includes an article called “Take Care of Your Tires: It’s about
Safety and Savings,” which can give you more specific clues about
the points manufacturers are likely to mention in their defense.

Independent acts of the retailer could be the basis of liability in a
tire failure case in addition to the defective condition of the tire
and will be discussed below. At this point, it is important to note
that any information that can be obtained regarding the history and
use of the tire is important to diffusing a manufacturer’s contention
that the tire was abused, run underinflated, run overloaded, or
worn out.

These defenses can be easily rebutted if there is a paper trail
outlining the date of purchase for the subject tire as well as any
maintenance and/or rotation history associated with the tire. This
information will allow a claimant to specifically identify the
mileage of the tire, how long the tire has been in service, and the
air pressure and loading conditions that the tire has seen in its
operational history. While the absence of this information will not
prevent pursuit of a claim, it is helpful information to have to
combat issues that will be raised by the manufacturer.

For example, in a recent case, we were able to obtain records
through subpoenas from multiple tire service centers near our
client’s home. The case involved the death of her husband due to
the failure of a tire on his pickup truck.

From the records, we were able to piece together a complete
picture of the tire maintenance performed on his vehicle for
approximately two years. The records identified the vehicle, the
tire types and positions, and whether a rotation had occurred. The
records also indicated the mileage of the vehicle at each servicing
of the vehicle. It would have been helpful had the records provided

27
the DOT numbers for each tire on the vehicle. Based on our
experience, even though most service centers have a location in
their records for DOT numbers, technicians rarely include this
information in their recordkeeping.

Additionally, if the tire has been repaired due to nail punctures or
other road damage, maintenance records could indicate when such
maintenance or repairs occurred on the tire in terms of mileage
and/or time. This information can also be significant in proving
tire defects and deflecting defenses raised by the manufacturer.
Maintenance information can also provide a window into the
amount of tread left on the tire at any given time in the history of
the tire. This information can also explain how the tire was used
and whether it has been abused during its service lifetime.

Finally, the maintenance history can help identify whether any
recalls relate to the tire and if the retailer was made aware of such
recalls but failed to provide that information to the consumer.

In another case, our client suffered quadriplegia following a tread
belt separation on a full-size SUV. We began trying to piece
together the maintenance history of her vehicle and tires. The
records we were able to obtain provided us with information
regarding multiple retailers that provided maintenance. We were
also able to trace her vehicle back to a local vehicle dealership that
had serviced her vehicle related to a recall on her tires. We were
able to establish that the dealership improperly inspected her
vehicle and, as a result, a recalled tire was left on the vehicle and
ultimately failed.

Maintenance records from another tire retailer allowed us to
establish that the retailer also had information about the recall on
the tire that had remained on the vehicle, but failed to inform our
client that the tire was recalled. Because the initial records from
the vehicle dealership showed that a tire recall inspection had
occurred, we were able to follow up on that information and use

28
the recall information to show that others in the tire servicing
industry breached their standard of care to our client.

29
The Proper Application
Obtaining the information contained on the product will allow you
to determine:
(1) the manufacturer of the tire (as discussed previously);
(2) the date the tire was manufactured (as discussed
previously);
(3) the size of the tire;
(4) load range of the tire; and
(5) maximum inflation for the tire and whether such a tire was
properly installed on the vehicle at issue in the case.

Sometimes the wrong size or type tire has been installed on a
vehicle, which can impact manufacture defenses related to the
handling and stability of the vehicle and whether the plaintiff was
negligent in using an inappropriate tire size or type on the vehicle.

Vehicle Door Placard

Nearly every passenger car and light truck on the road today
contains some type of placard on the vehicle that states the tire size
and inflation pressure for the vehicle that is recommended by the
manufacturer. (Fig. 13 and 14)

Fig. 13– Image courtesy Safercar.gov/NHTSA

30
Fig. 14– Image courtesy Safercar.gov/NHTSA

Proper tire size

It is not uncommon for a manufacturer to claim that a wreck was
caused because the owner/driver had improper tire sizes or
improper tire inflation on the vehicle that contradicted those
recommended by the manufacturer.

In Fig. 13 and 14, you can see that the automobile manufacturer
has recommended a specific size tire be used on the vehicle along
with the appropriate tire pressure for use with the vehicle.

It is important to note that the tire pressure indicated on a vehicle
door placard is often different than the maximum pounds-per-
square inch (PSI) stamped on the sidewall of the tire. (Fig. 15)

31
Fig. 15

The maximum PSI shown on the sidewall of a tire is the maximum
amount of tire pressure that is acceptable for the design
specifications for the tire.

However, the vehicle manufacturer often provides a recommended
tire pressure that is lower than the maximum amount to optimize
vehicle handling and suspension qualities of the vehicle. When
having a vehicle serviced by a retailer or tire servicer, this entity
should be using the air pressure indicated on the door placard
rather than the maximum amount shown on the sidewall of the tire.

In many instances, retailers are unaware of this distinction and
often put in the maximum amount stated on the sidewalls of the
tire. Again, this is one of those issues that makes it important to
obtain maintenance records if possible to see if the retailer was
improperly servicing the tires, which could also give rise to
independent claims against the tire servicers for a tire failure event.

It is important to know the size of the tire because it can have an
impact on the scope of discovery that is allowed and it will
indicate whether it is a passenger tire or a light truck tire. The size

32
information on the side of the tire will also indicate the load index
and speed information for the tire. (Fig. 16)

51
Fig. 16

As noted above, information on the side of the tire will also
indicate the maximum load rating for the tire as well as the
maximum permissible inflation pressure that can be used with the
tire. (Fig. 17)

Fig. 17

33
There is also a distinction between passenger tires and light truck
tires (LT tires). Passenger tires come in a variety of sizes that fit on
the typical passenger car or sedan. There are also large passenger
tires that are designed for use on SUVs and pickup trucks. The
design and make-up of passenger tires provides for a specific
maximum loading and typically provides a softer, quieter ride for a
vehicle.

A light truck tire, on the other hand, has design qualities that allow
it to accept a much higher load-carrying capacity and oftentimes
does not have as good of a ride as a passenger tire. Light truck tires
also typically require significantly higher air pressure when
compared to passenger tires. The difference between a passenger
tire and a light truck tire often comes into play related to pickup
trucks and/or large SUVs.

It is not uncommon for large passenger tires designed for use on
pickup trucks or large SUVs to be comparable in size to a light
truck tire, but both are designed for significantly different uses.
This difference can affect the handling and load carrying
capabilities of the vehicle. These design differences can also
change how a vehicle may respond in the event of catastrophic tire
failure.

The below exchanges on a blog highlight whether LT tires
should be used on large vehicles such as SUVs or passenger
trucks.

Saturday, April 25, 2015 by Alfred
If I switch from a P-rated tire to LT-rated tire,
should I increase tire pressure, or just follow what's
on the door jamb (the sticker that says the
recommended tire pressures, but that was for P-
rated tires).

34
Wednesday, April 29, 2015 by Tire Rack Team
Alfred, You should stick with your factory pressure
to insure TPMS sensors continue to function
correctly and to preserve ride comfort. Running an
LT tire at higher pressures will increase load
carrying capacity, but will also stiffen the ride
considerably.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015 by Gary
I'm considering replacing the current P-metric tires
on my 2006 Nissan Frontier. Other than reduced
fuel mileage and maybe reduced ride
quality/comfort, are there any other potential
negatives to moving to LT tires? For example, does
the extra tire weight and stiffness of an LT tire
introduce handling or safety issues in particular
situations? Thanks very much.

Saturday, June 4, 2016 by Jeremy
I have an old town and country van thinking of
putting LT tires on it. I have a big family and we
need to drive 8 hrs on interstate to see grandparents
would LT tires last longer on this van after all of
use and stuff we pack that van full

Tuesday, June 7, 2016 by Tire Rack Team
Jeremy, Under heavy loads, an LT tire should wear
better. -- sonny@tirerack.com

Friday, September 2, 2016 by Max
I have a jeep Wrangler 2013 moab édition That
comes with p 245 75 R 17. I Want to buy an all
weather tires ... Most are LT tires...
Should i consider them or tryin to find a good one
in P size?

35
Thursday, September 8, 2016 by Tire Rack Team
Max, There is no reason you couldn't use an LT
tire. LT tires would not be any better or worse in a
given situation compared to the P counterpart
(outside of load capacity and ride comfort).52

Unfortunately, what the Tire Rack Team members above are
ignoring is that the LT tires usually have a higher maximum PSI
and load carrying capacity. Thus, underinflating the tires to match
the “door jamb” recommended PSI can be dangerous. In addition,
as discussed more later, manufacturer recommendations take
design aspects into consideration. Driving a passenger vehicle with
tires designed for a vehicle with heavier loads can cause
potentially dangerous vehicle handling issues in the event of an
emergency or tire failure.

For this reason, it is important to note whether the vehicle involved
in a specific incident has the type and size tires recommended by
the manufacturer. If the vehicle does not have the recommended
tire size or design application, it is not necessarily fatal to a case
but becomes an issue that would otherwise not be relevant.
Manufacturers will often seize on this issue even though it is not a
factor in the tire failure or the loss of control following a tread belt
separation.

In another case, our client lost control of a pickup truck as a result
of a rear tire tread belt separation. The tires on the rear of the truck
were a larger size than those recommended by the vehicle
manufacturer on the door placard. The tire manufacturer defendant
argued that the plaintiff was at fault for installing tires that were
oversized. However, we were able to show that these tires had
actually been placed on the vehicle by a local retailer. We were
also able to show through expert testimony that the truck
manufacturer recommended the larger size tire for the model truck
as an option.

36
As a result, we were able to respond to this defense by showing
that it was the tire professional who had recommended placement
of these tires on the vehicle, not our client. However, in this
specific case, our vehicle handling expert offered the opinion that
the slightly oversized tires did not cause or contribute to the loss of
vehicle control, but rather that it was the tread separation event that
was a proximate cause of the wreck. The fact that the same size
tire was allowable as an option was also helpful.

37
The Collection
and Preservation of Evidence
It is axiomatic in a product liability action that without the product,
it is almost always impossible to go forward with filing suit. This
is no different in a tire defect case. In order to establish that there
is a design or manufacturing defect in a specific tire, it is necessary
to have possession of the tire for an expert to evaluate. It is also
important to obtain any tread or belt pieces that have detached
from the carcass of the tire. (Fig. 18)

Fig. 18

However, it is not always necessary to have the tread belt pieces in
order to pursue a defective tire case. It is not uncommon for the
detached tread belt piece to be lost along the highway or not
collected by police or first responders following a wreck.
Therefore, once you are asked to investigate such a case, it is
important to go to the scene to determine if there is any physical
tread or tread belt evidence at the scene.

38
If so, this evidence should be photographed and its location
marked for future reference. (Fig. 19)

Fig. 19

It is also important to collect this evidence and preserve it during
the course of the litigation as both sides will want to inspect it.

All parties will likely request to inspect any evidence collected
from the scene. It is important to maintain proper chain of custody
for such evidence and document its condition to ensure no
inspecting party alters or damages the evidence.

In one case, we were investigating a potential tire failure case
involving a pickup truck. The wreck report specifically indicated
that there was a “blow-out” of one of the tires on the vehicle.
However, when we found the vehicle, there were only three tires
with the vehicle.

For some reason, the police and wrecker service responding to the
accident did not bother to search the scene for the failed tire. We
went to inspect the scene of the wreck and after an extensive
search were able to locate the failed tire that had separated from

39
the vehicle during the rollover sequence. It ended up several
hundred yards from the resting point of the vehicle, across the road
in tall grass.

Our inspection of the scene also found the long piece of detached
tread still on the scene of the accident. We documented the
location of the tire as well as the tread piece through photographs.
We also indicated on the roadway by identifying paint marks
where the tread piece had been located.

Later in the investigation, we were able to meet eye witnesses at
the scene of the wreck who were able to provide us with specific
references to where the tread piece had actually been deposited
during the wreck sequence. One of the witnesses was able to tell us
that they actually picked the tread piece up and moved it to the
location where we found it during our scene inspection. This is one
example of many where it is important to thoroughly inspect the
scene of a wreck and follow up with witnesses. Had we not done
so, the actual tire that failed may never have been found or located
by anyone investigating the wreck.

The scene of the wreck will also hold significant evidence related
to vehicle movements and can also include physical evidence
indicating when the tread belt separation event occurred. (Fig. 20)

Fig. 20

40
If it is a case where the tire lost air as part of the tread separation
event, there can be physical evidence indicating when the air loss
occurred. (Fig. 21)

Fig. 21

For these and other reasons, it is important to photograph and
document any evidence on the scene as soon as possible. This can
be done by an experienced investigator or by employing an
accident reconstruction expert as soon as possible. An accident
reconstructionist will often photograph and survey the accident
scene identifying all potential evidence in order to create a scene
diagram that can be used to help explain the vehicle movements
and tire failure sequence of events.

Thus, an accident reconstruction expert helps you determine
important factors including the following:
 The vehicle’s movements before, during, and after the tire
failure;
 The vehicle’s speeds before, during and after the tread
separation; and
 The vehicle’s response to the tread separation event.
In the most catastrophic tread separation tire failure events, there
will be claims by the manufacturer that the tire failure event was

41
controllable and that the “over reaction” of the driver was the
proximate cause of the wreck. Therefore, vehicle handling and
movements during the tread separation event will become relevant.
For this reason, it is important to locate and obtain the vehicle and
preserve it for the duration of the case. (Fig. 22)

Fig. 22

In many instances, the vehicle can be bought for salvage from the
insurance company or wrecker yard that retrieved it from the
accident scene. The vehicle should be preserved in its post-wreck
condition and kept under cover if possible. The vehicle can also
contain evidence related to vehicle movements and injury
causation if that becomes an issue in the case.

For example, manufacturers will sometimes claim that a vehicle
occupant was not wearing a seat belt and argue that if they had
been belted, they would not have received injuries. There may also
be vehicle defects that allow for additional claims related to the
injuries that have been caused, i.e. a seatbelt failure or airbag
defect as an example.

42
In some instances, there may be vehicle-related handling defects
that can give rise to vehicle defect claims under the circumstances.
For example, in the Ford/Firestone litigation, the Explorer was
often blamed as having a handling defect that caused it to go out of
control in the event of a rear tire tread belt tire separation. The
vehicle can also be a good source of physical information to
establish an interaction between the tread belt flap that separates
from the tire. (Figs. 23 and 24)

Fig. 23

43
Fig. 24

When the tread belt separates from the vehicle, it can interact with
the vehicle causing a braking effect, causing the vehicle to pull in a
certain direction toward the tire failure. Additionally, there have
been occasions where the detaching tread belt flap has wrapped
around a brake line actuating the vehicle brakes and causing more
severe vehicle reactions. Therefore, the vehicle itself can be a
treasure trove of evidence regarding the specific incident being
investigated.

44
The Expert Tire Inspection
One of the most significant pre-suit evaluations that should occur
is an inspection of the failed tire by a qualified tire failure expert.
It is not unusual for an initial examination of a failed tire to cost
$5,000 or more. An expert will typically perform a visual and
tactile inspection that is non-destructive in nature. In fact, the
expert should take extreme care not to destroy or alter any of the
physical evidence with respect to the tire.

However, it is not unusual for experts to use chalk or other tire
markers to designate the time or degree locations on the tire in
order to perform an orderly inspection of the physical evidence.
These type of markings are not considered destructive or altering
of the evidence. However, manufacturers have at times challenged
an expert claiming that they altered evidence by placing these
marks on a failed tire. To my knowledge, none of these arguments
have been successful in excluding expert opinions.

A qualified tire expert can also obtain x-rays of the failed tire in
order to get a better look at the construction of the tire and any
anomalies that may exist in the tire. Again, this is a non-
destructive evaluation. X-rays allow an expert to see belt
placements that exist in the tire. (Fig. 25)

45
Fig. 25

The expert oftentimes will examine companion tires to get a better
idea about the history and use of the failed tire. If there are
companion tires that are of the same brand and type, shearography
may be considered as part of additional non-destructive analysis.

Shearography is a process that allows the expert to examine the
non-damaged tire to identify whether the companion tires are also
exhibiting signs of tread belt failure and separations, which would
be evidence to support the claim that the failed tire was defective
in design or manufacture. For this reason, companion tires should
also be obtained and maintained if possible.

46
47
Design Defects

Tire design is complex and requires an acceptable margin of safety
for foreseeable service conditions. A tire’s tread should not
separate while it still has tread life.53

Steel-belted radial pneumatic tires have essentially been in
existence since the 1940s. However, the outdated bias-ply tire
construction maintained a large market share in the United States
until the late 1960s.

Nonetheless, tire manufacturers began to recognize early on that
the steel-belted construction of pneumatic tires had a persistent
problem of belt edge separations that posed significant durability
and safety problems. Almost as early as the steel-belted radial tire
became widely used, tire manufacturers began looking at ways to
design out the phenomenon of belt edge separations. In fact, in
1965, Michelin filed for a patent in the United States with the
intention of reducing the occurrence of belt edge separations
caused by movement of the steel belts at the shoulder’s edge.54

Over the years, nearly all of the major tire manufacturers including
Michelin, Bridgestone, Dunlop, Goodyear, Uniroyal and others
filed patents through the 1960s into the 2000s offering different
inventions, all with similar applications and designs for limiting or
reducing belt edge separations so as to increase the durability of
steel-belted radial tires.55

Uniroyal described this prevalent problem of belt edge separations
in a patent filed in 1973 in the United States Patent Office as
follows:

[Radial tires] frequently fail at high speeds because
separations occur in the shoulder zones of the tires
where the edges of the belt plies are located. Such
ply separations are due to the cord ends at the edges

48
of the belt plies becoming detached from the
surrounding rubber under the effects of centrifugal
force acting on the tire, and this result is made even
more likely by the fact that the cords or cables and
the belt plies, being disposed obliquely to the
median equatorial plane of the tire by virtue of said
plies being out obliquely with respect to said
longitudinal direction of the cords or cables therein,
have a natural tendency to spread apart or open in a
fan-wise direction at their cut ends. The edges of
the belt thus constitute zones or regions where the
cut and free ends of the reinforcing elements, i.e.
the cords or cables by friction and by cutting, cause
breaks both in the carcass plies and in the tread
rubber of the tire.56

Today, “a steel-belted radial tire has several components, including
an inner liner, two polyester body plies, two steel belts, two bead
reinforcing strips, the sidewall rubber and a tread.”57 The part of
the tire that endures the most stress and heat is the belt edge.58 The
sharp edges where the steel belts are cut gradually deteriorate the
surrounding rubber.59

Following is a non-exhaustive discussion of potential design
defects that can result in premature belt edge tire failure.

Belt wedge & Nylon wrap /cap ply

Patents filed by tire manufacturers since the 1960s have offered
two primary design alternatives that have been used separately and
in conjunction with each other to eliminate the frequent failure
mode related to belt edge separations. (Fig. 26)
 

49
Fig. 26

Manufacturers have suggested using a belt wedge, which is a
rubber component placed between the two steel belts, to prevent or
reduce the ability of the belts to rub against each other causing the
belts to ultimately detach, and reduce the durability of the tire
shoulder area. Some tire manufacturers have used belt wedges with
great success in improving tire durability. In some instances, the
belt wedge design used by particular manufacturers was not

50
sufficient in managing the stress, strain and heat seen at the belt’s
edge.

For example, the tires that were subject to the Ford/Firestone
Congressional investigation used wedges that were determined to
be insufficient in size. However, despite the revelations of the
Congressional investigation about the usefulness of belt wedges,
many manufacturers continue to design and sell tires that do not
include belt wedges. The use of a belt wedge is an additional
component and adds cost to the tires. Although the cost is
minimum per tire, some manufacturers have decided to avoid the
additional cost and continue to sell tires without belt wedges
despite the added safety benefit.

Another alternative design that is employed to reduce belt edge
failures is a nylon wrap or cap ply. (Fig. 27)

Fig. 27 60

Manufacturers often argue that cap plies are only suitable for high-
performance tires. However, nylon is often found in all variety of
tires. A cap ply is made of nylon or other similar material and is
placed on top of the belts and below the tread material. Cap plies
have also been installed along the belt edge and shoulders of the
tire as an additional component known as cap strips. (Fig. 28)

51
61
Fig. 28

The usefulness of cap plies and their ability to increase belt edge
durability has been well-known for decades.62 This method of tire
design has been used and implemented successfully for decades in
Europe. However, American tire manufacturers have resisted the
use of this additional component until recently.

In litigation, tire manufacturers will tell you that cap plies are only
useful for high speed or high performance tires. But proving that
your tire’s manufacturer failed to include a cap ply could be
beneficial to your case, as it was for the plaintiffs in Mascarenes v.
Cooper Tire & Rubber (Georgia) and Idar v. Cooper Tire &
Rubber (Texas).63 The plaintiff won a punitive damage claim in
Mascarenes because the federal court took note that usage of cap
plies has been prevalent in the tire industry for decades.64

Despite the usefulness of cap plies and the long track record of
improving the durability of tires, steel-belted radial tires are still
sold in the United States without this feature. It is possible to
include both cap plies and belt wedges as components to reduce
the stress, strain, and heat generated at the belt edges and increase
the durability of tire belt edges. (Fig. 29)

52
65
Fig. 29

Inadequate rubber compounding

The rubber compound used to encapsulate steel wires or fabric
reinforcement in a tire structure is often referred to as “skim
stock.” Skim stock formulas are typically proprietary information
developed and formulated by each individual tire manufacturer.
If a manufacturer has identified that a particular tire line or tire
design is experiencing uncharacteristically high tread separations,
it could be as a result of inadequate rubber compounding design
associated with the skim stock used to encapsulate the steel belts.
If a manufacturer’s adjustment data is showing particularly high
tread separations, it may be due to the lack of a robust skim stock
formula. In some cases, discovery can reveal a manufacturer has
identified inadequate compounding and a need for a more robust
skim stock to reduce the nature and frequency of tread belt
separations.

53
Improper cure temperature

Every tire goes through a curing or vulcanization process to bind
the rubber components of a tire together to create the “cured” tire
that is sold to consumers. Each manufacturer has typically
developed a range of temperatures and cure times associated with
its particular tire lines that allow for optimized properties of
bonding during the vulcanization process that will prevent
premature failure through improper curing and lack of adequate
bonding. Improper curing can occur in a tire that is overcured or
undercured.

In an overcured tire, the rubber properties are not optimized
because the bonds among the rubber layers and components are
too rapidly formed and the components do not properly bond. This
can also result in reduced tear strength of the rubber components.
A tire that is overcured can result from being cured too long or at
too high of a temperature.

An undercured condition occurs when the tire is not cured at a high
enough temperature and/or not cured long enough. An undercured
tire can experience high levels of porosity due to lack of adequate
bonding among the component parts. Additionally, when
examining certain manufacturers’ documents, the manufacturer
may have identified specific cure times and temperatures that
optimize its specific designs. If a manufacturer refuses to use those
optimized cured times and temperatures, it could result in an
improperly cured tire that can fail prematurely and/or lack suitable
durability.

Poor Inner Liner Design

An inadequate inner liner can also be the basis of a tire defect
claim. Unlike early tires, today’s steel-belted radial tires do not
include separate inner tubes. The inner tube is in essence built into
the tire and known as the “inner liner.” The purpose of the inner

54
liner is to prevent the escape of the compressed air that inflates the
tire. While it is impossible to prevent the escape of all air, the
purpose of proper tire design is to reduce the escaping air from the
tire to the largest extent possible, especially by preventing air and
moisture from passing into the internal components of the tire. If
compressed air and moisture are allowed to move through the
other rubber components of the tire, it can accelerate the oxidative
degradation of the rubber components and cause premature failure.

In most modern tires, the primary ingredient used to create inner
liners that prevents the escape of compressed air and moisture is
Halobutyl. Studies have consistently shown that the higher level of
Halobutyl in the inner liner, the less likely air is to escape from the
tire.

However, one of the most expensive components of a tire is
Halobutyl. For this reason, tire manufacturers often manipulate the
level of Halobutyl to reduce cost while attempting to reduce air
loss. The thickness of the inner liner can also be an issue regarding
the performance and durability of a tire. Therefore, a properly
designed tire requires sufficient inner liner thickness once the tire
has been cured or vulcanized to ensure a safe design.

55
Manufacturing Defects
Each manufacturer has developed manufacturing specifications
that govern the process for making each specific tire design.66 But
invariably, mistakes are made. It is these mistakes “built into” the
tire during manufacturing that are crucial to a tire case.

The term “manufacturing defects” typically refers to the reasons
why a tire does not meet the design or manufacturing
specifications of the tire maker. Typically, manufacturing defects
will be associated with one or a few specific tires. This is in
contrast to design defects that would apply to the entire line of
tires. Manufacturing defects can be related to human errors, poor
quality materials, and/or a lack of quality control in the
manufacturing process steps.

The following list is a non-exhaustive list of potential
manufacturing defects.67

Liner pattern marks

Many of the rubber components used in the manufacture of tires
are stored in rolls and the specific pieces are separated by fabric or
vinyl sheets (or liners). (Fig. 30-34)

Fig. 30

56
Fig. 31

Fig. 32

57
Fig. 33

Fig. 34

The materials used to wrap the rubber components can sometimes
leave pattern marks on the rubber components because they are
soft and sticky before they are put through the vulcanization or
curing process.

If storage fabric liner marks remain in the rubber after the
vulcanization process, it is evident that the tire lacked the proper

58
bonding necessary to maintain its structural integrity. An
experienced forensic tire expert will be able to identify the
existence of liner pattern marks and whether the marks evidence a
failure to properly manufacture the tire so that all components
were properly bonded during the vulcanization process.

Trapped air

Sometimes during the vulcanization process, air or water can be
left between the component parts when a tire is cured. (Fig. 35, 36)

Fig. 35
   

Fig. 36

59
If this occurs, it will create areas of trapped air or steam blisters
that are actually voids within the finished tire.

These areas also evidence areas within a tire where there is poor
bonding because of the voids of air. In the areas where trapped air
exists, there is no bonding of the rubber components and,
therefore, no resistance to a tread separation event. In other words,
the durability of the tire can be severely degraded.

Poor belt alignment

Steel-belted radial tires contain steel belts that increase the
durability of the tire, but if improperly installed through various
belt alignment defects, stress and strain at the belt edge can be
increased, which can ultimately lead to more stress on the tire and
result in a tread belt separation. More often than not, belt
alignment defects are associated with poor quality control by the
tire builder who misaligned the belts when constructing the tire.
An x-ray of tires can often identify poor belt alignment defects.
Belt alignment defects can take many forms including stacked belt
endings, off-set belts, overlapped belt splices, dog-eared belt
splices, scalloped belt edges and gapped belt splices.

Stacked belts and offset belts refer to the positioning of the
placement of the belts in a tire. Generally, there should be nearly
equal offsets on each side of the belts. (Fig. 37, 38)

60
Fig. 37

61
Fig. 38

62
Overlapped belt splices create stiffened areas of a belt, which can
increase the stress and strain of the tire in that specific region.68
(Fig. 39-41)

Fig. 39

63
Fig. 40

64
Fig. 41

65
A dog-eared splice occurs when the belt is misaligned during the
building process and results in a belt end edge sticking out creating
a pointy piece of belt. Thus, a dog-eared splice alters the ability of
a tire to manage the stress, strain and heat at the belt edges.
(Fig. 42, 43.)

Fig. 42

66
Fig. 43

67
Similar is a gapped belt splice, which is an enlarged splice between
the belt ends. (Fig. 44, 45.) Gapped belt splices changes a tire’s
ability to dissipate stress and strain during operation and alters the
tire’s ability to properly manage stress as originally designed.

Fig. 44

68
Fig. 45

69
Scalloped belts affect the belt edges creating uneven distortions
within the belt at the shoulder, resulting in an inability to properly
manage stress and strain. (Fig. 46, 47)

Fig. 46

70
Fig. 47

71
Premature oxidation

Oxidation is a condition that all tires go through in their lifetime.
Oxidation relates to the permeation of the compressed air along
with moisture in the compressed air that moves from the inner
liner into the component parts of the rubber tire. The compressed
air or oxygen that moves through the component parts from the
inner liner will break down the rubber components, causing them
to become less elastic and more brittle.

As the rubber materials of the tire break down due to oxidative
degradation, cracks can form and move throughout the skim stock
encapsulating the steel belts. (Fig. 48, 49)

Fig. 48

72
Fig. 49

Most often, this happens at the cut ends of the belts, and the
stresses and strains at this area can cause polishing that is evidence
of oxidated degradation.

Since all tires experience some level of oxidation, the defect
pertains primarily to “premature” oxidated degradation. You can
demonstrate that a tire’s oxidation is premature and occurred
because of a design and manufacturing defect that existed when
the tire was placed into the stream of commerce if:
1) the oxidational breakdown of the rubber occurred before
the tire’s natural life expired, and
2) there was no other avenue for the air and moisture to enter
the tire.

73
Inner liner splice

The inner liner is the material component of the tire that replaces
what was previously known as an inner tube. The inner liner is a
component part manufactured into the tire with the purpose of
retaining the compressed air that fills the tire and pressurizes it.
The inner liner is typically formed of a single component with the
two ends being sealed together. The two ends of the inner liner
will be slightly overlapped during the assembly process. If the tire
is improperly manufactured, this overlapping splice can lift or
separate. (Fig. 50, 51)

Fig. 50

74
Fig. 51

There are numerous occurrences in the manufacturing process that
can cause an inner liner splice to crack or open. No matter what the
cause, cracks in the inner liner will cause air and moisture to be
pushed through the inner components of the tire and result in
premature degradation.

Porosity

Porosity is a manufacturing condition that shows inadequate
bonding during the curing process. Porosity shows that the rubber
components failed to have complete contact with each other and,
as a result, poor bonding occurs. Porosity reduces the surface area
of the components that are in actual contact with each other and as
a result, reduces the bonding between the components, which can
cause a premature failure before tread life of the tire is exhausted.
(Fig. 52, 53)

75
Fig. 52

Fig. 53

Foreign material contamination

A perhaps more interesting manufacturing defect is foreign
material. Foreign material can be trapped inside a vulcanized tire
and create areas where there is a lack of bonding that can cause
premature failure of the tire.

76
Foreign material can be lodged in a tire during the manufacturing
process as a result of poor quality assurance processes. Foreign
material can be anything not called for in the tire specification and
can range from anything from nuts or bolts to pieces of wood.
Proper training and quality assurance processes are vital to
avoiding foreign objects being manufactured into tires. (Fig. 54)

Fig. 54

77
Warning Defects
In addition to theories related to design and/or manufacturing
defects, a failure to warn claim should also be considered. Tread
belt separations and the hazard they pose to the traveling public are
well-documented and recognized by manufacturers as well as the
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

However, manufacturers and retailers do not typically supply their
consumers with information about the likelihood of a tread belt
separation and the potential harmful outcome. It is incumbent upon
these entities to inform consumers that, if a tread belt separation
occurred, it could result in significant harm and/or occur as a result
of some defect in the tire. It is well-known in the industry that a
tire should wear out before it comes apart.

Additionally, manufacturers rarely address the aging issue with
consumers or retailers. The aging issue can even include
automobile dealerships that sell used tires on cars without
checking the age of the tires.

As discussed below, tire aging can have a significant impact on the
durability of a tire structure and, as such, consumers are entitled to
know that there is an age limitation associated with the tires. This
should come in the form of more public information, more
information provided to retailers, as well as additional warnings
clearly designated on the product itself. But, unfortunately, DOT
codes that designate the manufacturing date of a tire are hard to
find, even more difficult to decipher, and rarely examined by
retailers or tire service centers.

For these reasons, a failure to warn claim should be seriously
considered when evaluating a potential tire defect case.

78
Vehicle Handling Issues
Statistics from the National Automotive Sampling System-
Crashworthiness Data System indicate that there are more than
17,000 accidents per year classified as tire failure-related. Of those
specific wrecks, there were nearly 400 fatalities and more than
11,000 injuries.

However, in tire litigation, it is customary for tire manufacturers to
argue that a tread belt separation is a controllable event. Tire
manufacturers generally point to the driver as being at fault in
causing the accident rather than the accident being the result of a
catastrophic and immediate tire failure due to a tread belt
separation. Yet, the Beasley Allen Firm possesses videos
demonstrating that even professional drivers who know how to
handle race cars at high speeds cannot always keep a car on the
road despite foreknowledge that the tire was about to suffer a tread
belt separation.69

As the tire tread separates at high speeds, the loose tread can slap
against the vehicle’s undercarriage, causing loud noises.70 The
vehicle seems to brake by itself, pulling the vehicle in the direction
of the tire failure, as the tire separation causes the wheel to no
longer maintain a speed equal to the other three wheels. 71 Drivers
may report their brakes went out, a misconception caused by a loss
of complete control over the wheels and the vehicle’s speed.

Although the federal statistics show that wrecks do in fact occur as
a result of tire failure, an additional factor that could contribute to
a loss of control may relate to vehicle handling characteristics.

A tread belt separation event or tread belt delamination is a
foreseeable event that is known to and recognized by tire designers
and vehicle designers. Unfortunately, there is not presently any
standard testing conducted by auto manufacturers to ensure that
their vehicles are designed robustly enough to maintain directional
controllability during this type of foreseeable event. Most vehicles

79
are designed to be steady-state understeer vehicles. Automobile
designers consider understeer to be a safe handling characteristic
design for the public.72

An understeer vehicle design typically references the relative slip
angles when comparing oversteer to understeer. Understeer is a
condition where the slip angle associated with the front tires is
greater than that of the rear tires and therefore causes the vehicle to
either maintain its course heading or plow out during an
emergency event.

In contrast, an oversteer vehicle is typically one where the slip
angle for the rear portion of a vehicle exceeds that of the front
axle, causing the rear end of the vehicle to break away and
typically rotate toward the front of the vehicle. The oversteer
condition is generally considered to be the more dangerous
condition and one in which a vehicle can overreact, causing the
vehicle to become uncontrollable.73

It is generally uncontested among experts that once a tire has lost
its tread, the vehicle will have less lateral control and traction due
to the loss of the tread, which can have an adverse effect on the
handling characteristics of the vehicle. However, the design of
vehicle suspension can also have a very negative effect on the
time, usually seconds, when the tread separation event is actually
occurring.

In other words, during that time period when the tread is actually
peeling away from the carcass of the tire, a severe situation can
occur that can cause an instantaneous or instant oversteer condition
of the vehicle that is unexpected and unknown to typical drivers.

Vehicle directional control during the delamination process or
event due to oversteer can be created by an imbalance in the
suspension that is created as the tire itself rotates over the tread
flap peeling off the tire, which causes cyclic forces on the tire and
suspension causing intermittent loss of traction.74

80
Since most consumers are accustomed to driving a vehicle that is
understeer, it is not uncommon for a driver to lose control when
the vehicle instantaneously becomes an oversteer vehicle. In the
oversteer condition, the vehicle will overreact to steer inputs that
would typically be safe operating conditions when the vehicle isn’t
in an oversteer condition.

Similarly, in the Ford Explorer/Firestone controversy, it was
discovered that rollovers could not be prevented even by a
professional test driver, because the defective tires were combined
with “high-center-of-gravity” vehicle design common to sport
utility vehicles.75

For this reason, a vehicle dynamics expert should be engaged to
evaluate the specifics of a particular vehicle to determine whether
the design is appropriate, reasonable and robust enough to remain
controllable during a foreseeable tread separation event.

81
Importer Liability
In recent years, China was blamed for dangerous products,
including exploding tires,76 that it exported to the United States.77
“From July 2006 to June 2007, FDA inspectors stopped 1,901
shipments from China.”78 The Chinese government has confessed
that it has inadequate safety standards and recently executed the
head of China’s food and drug agency because he permitted tainted
products to proceed to market in exchange for bribes.79

“The National Highway Traffic Safety
Administration ordered the recall of a number of
Chinese-made tires that had been imported to the
United States. The importer, a small family owned
business known as Foreign Tire Sales, was sued in
the United States after the defective tires caused
several deaths.

This, of course, was after Foreign Tire Sales spent
approximately $90 million recalling the tires.
Foreign Tire Sales then sued the Chinese
manufacturer, Hangzhou Zhongce Rubber Co.
(HZ), in the United States for indemnity. This raises
some interesting questions for a party intending to
sue a foreign corporation in the United States,
especially in regards to service and enforcement of
a judgment abroad.”80

The Chinese products’ problems are just one example of the
complex and potentially dangerous issues that arise when a
situation involves foreign manufacturers.81 Many foreign countries
have insufficient product safety laws; thus, U.S. companies must
be particularly vigilant in ensuring the safety of any products
(parts, etc.) they import from foreign suppliers.82

As noted earlier, there are a number of foreign tire manufacturers
that sell their products in the United States. Some have an

82
established network of dealerships while others simply import their
products to distributors that implement the manufacturer’s
marketing plan to sell tires throughout the United States. Where
there is no existing dealership network, in the event of a product
defect, a foreign manufacturer may argue the lack of personal
jurisdiction in an effort to avoid being hauled into the United
States court system to answer for its poorly made products. In
those instances, it may require pursuing the importer for liability
for the defective product.

Many times the U.S.-based importer will claim that it has a lack of
knowledge regarding the design, manufacture and testing
associated with the product it is importing. However, the National
Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act 49 U.S.C. Chapter 301 Sec.
30102(a)(5)(B) establishes that importers of “motor vehicles or
motor vehicle equipment” are deemed the “manufacturer” of the
imported product. In other words, under Federal law, an importer
is designated to be the manufacturer of the product it imports and
could be subject to liability for a defective product.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) publishes a
handbook and standards for manufacturing safer products that
addresses the duties and obligations of an importer to make sure
that the imported products are safe. According to the CPSC policy
at 16 C.F.R. 1009.3, it states that “under the Act importers are
made subject to the same responsibilities as domestic
manufacturers.”

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has also
published regulations stating “importers of motor vehicles and
motor vehicle equipment have duties as manufacturers under the
Safety Act.” As this relates to passenger and light truck tires, these
regulations place a duty upon the importer to ensure that the tires it
is importing meet FMVSS No. 139. The Recommended Best
Practices for importers of motor vehicle and motor vehicle
equipment published by NHTSA sets forth appropriate guidelines
to be followed by importers to ensure that the products they are

83
importing are safe. Therefore, it is possible to pursue independent
negligence claims against importers for failure to follow the
standard of care related to their obligations as an importer. These
would be claims separate and apart from strict liability or product
defect claims.

For example, the Best Practices guidelines establish that a
manufacturer or importer must:
 inspect the goods upon import;
 inspect foreign manufacturing facilities and quality control
mechanisms;
 fully understand product specifications and design;
 exercise great care in selecting foreign manufacturers;
 establish contracts governing design and production,
testing, inspection and quality control; and,
 fully understand importer obligations under the law.83

In essence, the standard of care requires an importer to understand
the design, manufacture, testing and quality control issues
associated with the tires it imports. If an importer has failed to
follow the standard of care, it could be liable for its violations of
the standard of care.

Additionally, in those cases where foreign manufacturers attempt
to fight service of process abroad or require that they be served
through The Hague Convention or similar treaties that can be
costly and timely, federal law states that “service on an agent of
administrative or judicial notices or process is deemed to be
service on a manufacturer” (49 C.F.R. § 551.66).

Additionally, 49 U.S.C. § 30164 requires an importer of motor
vehicles or motor vehicle equipment to “have identified a current
agent for service of process in accordance with Part 551 of Title
49, Code of Federal Regulations.”

84
Therefore, it may be possible to locate a designated agent of
service of process in the United States identified pursuant these
regulations for a foreign manufacturer that enables a plaintiff to
serve the designated U.S. agent for service. However, there are
conflicted judicial decisions on this issue.

85
Tire Aging

Tire aging is an issue that relates to the structural integrity and
performance of a tire over time. As a tire ages, it experiences
extreme heat, stress and strain as well as well as other
environmental factors that can degrade the material properties of
the tire, which can lead to a catastrophic tire failure during
ordinary use and result in vehicle loss of control. Also, as noted
earlier, premature oxidation can result in stiffness and other
problems also caused by actual aging.

Like oxidation, heat appears to be a significant factor in
contributing to structural failures of tires as they age. The NHTSA
believes that tire aging is a significant concern for Southern parts
of the United States, particularly during summer months when heat
build-up can be significant. The NHTSA has stated that these
“Southern Belt” states can include Southern California, Arizona,
New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia
and Florida.84

Tire aging can occur to a tire without any real visual signs of
degradation. In fact, tires can suffer a catastrophic failure even
though the tire has never been used and appears to have nearly all
of its tread depth. “Yet, the public, and even tire retailers and
service technicians, know little about the dangers of aged tires.”85

After the Ford Explorer/Wilderness ATX rollover controversy in
2000 that resulted in the loss of lives, the National Highway
Traffic Safety Administration began researching the dangers of tire
aging.86 The NHTSA has recognized that tire aging is a significant
safety factor that can contribute to catastrophic tire failure.87

Although urged to take action by congress,88 the National Highway
Traffic Safety Administration has elected not to proceed with any
Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard rule-making related
specifically to the issue of aging. However, as noted above, the

86
NHTSA has recognized that tire aging is a significant safety factor
that can contribute to catastrophic tire failure.89

As with any proposed rule-making, the industry vigorously
objected to any rule that related to any regulations as to tire aging.
Unfortunately, the current Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard
No. 139 does not specifically include a test to evaluate tire
performance due to the age of the tire in relation to its service life
and the NHTSA has refused to take any further rule-making
action.

NHTSA’s own testing and research has revealed the significant
safety hazard associated with aged tires. “The agency reviewed
insurance company tire claims reported from 2002-2006 and found
77 percent of the tire claims came from five hot-climate states
(including California) and 84 percent of these claims were for tires
more than six years old.”90

The issue of tire aging relating to degradation over time or
thermos-oxidated aging has been known for decades. A 1931
journal article stated:

The auto-oxidation of rubber has been known for a
long time, and for a long time, too, it has been
known that it plays an important part in
spontaneous deterioration or aging, and it has been
the object of numerous studies of much interest.91

Interestingly, spare tires are also a significant concern related to
aging. In many cases, consumers do not rotate spare tires into
regular use. These tires can remain dormant under a vehicle for
years. As a result, spare tires suffer the same heat-related and
environmental issues that can contribute to the structural
degradation of a tire even though it still retains most or all of its
original tread and appears unused.

87
Automaker recommendations

Since the Ford/Firestone litigation of the late 1990s, the issue of
tire aging has become more prominent and addressed by many
automakers. A number of auto manufacturers, including Ford, Jeep,
Chrysler, Dodge, GM, Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche,
VW, Mitsubishi and Toyota now include warnings in vehicle
owner’s manuals stating that tires should be replaced that are six
years old, irrespective of the tread that remains on the tire. Ford
first began using this warning in 2005 model year vehicles.92

However, as indicated above, tire manufacturers typically argue
that tire aging is not a significant factor related to structural
failures in tires. Nonetheless, several tire manufacturers, such as
Bridgestone, Michelin, Continental and Cooper Tire, have
published warnings and/or service center bulletins indicating that
tires that are ten years old should be replaced. Manufacturers have
also included recommendations that if a specific automobile
manufacturer recommends a time period less than ten years, then
the consumer should follow the automaker’s recommendation for
tire replacement.

The tire aging issue can be a significant contributing factor to tire
service center liability for failure to recognize that tires are beyond
the age limit recommendations of tire manufacturers and/or
automobile manufacturers.

88
Retailer Liability

When evaluating a catastrophic tire failure case, there could be
liability issues related to the retailers and/or tire servicer. If a tire
servicer performs tire maintenance and fails to recognize that tires
are clearly older than allowed by industry standards and/or
automobile manufacturer warnings, a tire servicer could be
responsible for such failure.

However, if the tire servicer recognizes the age of the tires, the
consumer should be informed and encouraged to remove the tires.
Tire service experts will tell you that if such recommendations are
made and refused by the customer, industry practice would require
the consumer sign the retail receipt related to the servicing of the
vehicle explaining that the customer has declined the
recommendations to remove aged tires. However, more often than
not, tire servicers do not look at DOT numbers to determine the
age of the tire and therefore miss tire aging issues.

Another tire servicer issue relates to the placement of tires on the
vehicle relative to the front and rear axle. Generally, as it relates to
passenger cars and light trucks, most consumers (and tire
servicers) believe that tires with the best tread should be placed on
the front axle of the vehicle. However, this runs contrary to
industry practice. Tire manufacturers for years have issued
recommendations that tires with the best tread depth should be
placed on the rear of the vehicle in order to avoid a handling
condition known as “oversteering.” Oversteering is a technical
term and relates to a condition where the rear-end of a vehicle
breaks away and the vehicle begins to rotate sideways.

When a vehicle oversteers, it becomes difficult to control and can
result in a wreck causing serious injuries or death. Some tire
manufacturers also state in informational materials provided to tire
servicers that the best tread needs to be placed on the rear axle
particularly to aid vehicle handling in wet conditions to avoid an

89
oversteer. However, the oversteer condition can occur during other
instances, not simply on wet pavement. For this reason, as a
general rule, the best tread depth should always be placed on the
rear axle. Therefore, in cases where the best tread is actually on the
front axle and a vehicle suffers a rear tire tread belt separation,
there may be a degraded handling issue related to tire servicer
conduct.

A similar issue relates to those instances where consumers replace
only two tires as opposed to four tires. Using the rule stated above,
when a consumer purchases only two tires, the tires with the best
tread should be placed on the rear of the vehicle and not the front
axle of the vehicle. Again, there could be situations where a
vehicle suffers a catastrophic failure on the rear axle because a
retailer has actually placed the two tires with the best tread on the
front axle instead of the rear. This goes counter to industry practice
related to the procedure for replacing only two tires. Please note
that this rule would not apply to vehicles that have different size
tires on different axles.

For instance, certain high performance vehicles will tend to have
smaller tires on the front axle as compared to the rear axle. This
general rule of tire placement would not apply to this type of
vehicle configuration. Again, tire service experts will tell you that
if a customer refuses to follow this industry practice about tire
placement, the retailer should have the customer sign a receipt
indicating that they have refused to follow the tire servicer’s
recommendation.

Tire servicers will often sell used tires as well as new tires. Some
of the used tires may have been removed from vehicles serviced at
the facility and some may have been purchased from a used tire
wholesaler. Some tire manufacturers do not approve of the selling
of their products in a used condition absent knowledge of how the
tire had been previously used and whether it had been abused or
suffered other types of internal damage that can by identified by a
proper inspection by a qualified tire service expert. In some cases,

90
tire manufacturers issue bulletins stating that their tires should
never be purchased used. In this situation, there is potential
liability on a retailer for selling used tires in violation of these
recommendations and guidelines.

Additionally, the Rubber Manufacturer’s Association (RMA) also
issues recommended practices associated with the sale of used
tires. These recommendations set forth that in order to use used
tires, the tires should be thoroughly inspected inside and out and a
history of how the tire was previously used should be known. In
most cases, retailers selling used tires have no information about
the history of the tire and, therefore, they could contain internal
defects or abuse damage that is unknown and presents catastrophic
danger to consumers. As mentioned above, the sale of used tires
could also involve issues of tire age and tire placement, which
could add other issues related to tire servicer liability. If it is a used
tire sold by a wholesale distributor of used tires, there is a potential
claim against the wholesaler for selling tires in violation of tire
manufacturer and/or RMA recommendations.

Tire recalls

Alabama businesswoman Carolyn Thorne was paralyzed when her
vehicle crashed and rolled over after a defective tire detreaded
while she was driving. My partner LaBarron Boone and I
represented Ms. Thorne in her case against WalMart, which
installed a recalled tire on her vehicle.

While investigating a similar case, LaBarron had discovered recall
notices are often sent by third-class mail in order to save money,
making delivery ineffective and not guaranteed. There is currently
no effective system for either tire retailers or the public to confirm
that a tire is under recall.

91
Sean Kane, founder and president of Safety Research & Strategies,
calls the problem “the invisible hazard.” Federal investigators
confirm several hundred people are killed each year in accidents
where tires are a factor.

Donald Karol, Director of the National Transportation Safety
Bureau (NTSB) Office of Highway Safety has announced a first-
of-its-kind federal investigation of tire safety and the effectiveness
of current recall systems. After conducting its own research, ABC
News found that since the beginning of 2004, there have been
more than 5 million tires recalled for safety defects. Of that
number, 80 percent of recalled tires are never returned to the
manufacturers and may still be in the stream of commerce or
currently in use on vehicles.

Recognizing the significance of the retailer or servicer’s role, the
NHTSA has created free, online educational material, including
videos, for retailers to distribute and display in their showrooms
and places of business.93 This material can be found at
www.safercar.gov.

92
93
When manufacturers are forced to answer why their tires have
failed, they are likely to make defenses such as the below:

 Tire pieces on the side of the road can be caused by many
factors, including heat, road hazards, and others.95
 Heat is the prevalent cause, because heat is always a factor
caused by the tire sidewalls flexing as they roll down the
road. The less air pressure there is the more the sidewalls
flex. 96
 If the air pressure is sufficient for the load of the vehicle
the tires carry, the sidewalls flex minimally, but if the
pressure is insufficient, the sidewalls flex more, increasing
the heat, which can gradually deteriorate the chemical
bonds holding together the plies and rubber components.
Ultimately this chain reaction can result in a “blow out.” 97
 Potholes, debris, and even curbs from an errant steer of the
car wheel can also cause or contribute to a “blow out.”98
This is also known as the “impact” defense.

In nearly every tire case involving a tread belt separation, tire
manufacturing defendants typically raise the same defenses. The
list below, although not all inclusive, sets forth the most common
defenses that are raised in tire litigation. In most cases, one can
expect to see a manufacturer raise one or more of the following
defenses to avoid liability for defective tires.

Under inflation

The tire manufacturer is likely to claim: “Almost all of the tire
debris on our nation’s roads and highways could be avoided if
drivers paid attention to the inflation pressure in their tires.”99

Under inflation is a condition that tire manufacturers point to as a
maintenance issue that causes tire failure unrelated to the design or
manufacture of a tire. Manufacturers often point to evidence of rim

94
grooves in the bead flange area of a tire as evidence that a tire was
run under inflated. A rim groove is physical evidence left in the
bead flange area of a tire that has been installed on a rim.
Manufacturers claim that rim grooves only occur in tires that
evidence contact between the tire and a rim.

Other evidence pointed to by manufacturers as proof of a tire being
operated under inflated is more rapid tread wear on the shoulders
when compared to tread in the center of the tire. Manufacturers in
the most severe cases will also point to abrasion rings or “bluing”
on the inside of the tire or on the upper sidewall shoulders of the
tire as indications of a tire being operated in an under-inflated
condition.

Despite the tire manufacturers’ position, virtually all tires that have
been mounted and inflated on a metal rim for any significant
amount of time will show evidence of rim grooves. When a tire is
seated inside a metal rim flange and air pressure forces are applied,
the lower sidewall rubber is forced into the rim causing a rim
groove.

Additionally, all tire designers design a tire’s bead area such that
there is a compression fit of the tire to the rim so that the tire will
remain inflated and in position on the rim once mounted. This
compression fit yields compression rim groove marks over time
whether the tire is operated under inflated or not. The mere fact
that tires are mounted on rims, exposed to inflation pressures and
operated under vehicle weight and loads will produce rim grooves
over time.

There are a number of factors that can affect the degree of rim
grooving that is not related to a tire being operated in an under
inflated condition. For example:
(1) tire rubber softness;
(2) a tire’s lower sidewall profile relative to the profile of
the rim flange;

95
(3) underlying construction of the tire in the lower sidewall
area;
(4) the amount of use;
(5) the position of the tire on the vehicle relative to turning,
acceleration, braking; and,
(6) the load and inflation pressures experienced by the tire.

These are all factors that can influence the degree of rim grooving
on a tire outside of being operated in an under-inflated condition.
The mere presence of rim grooving, without other supporting
forensic evidence, cannot be used, in isolation, to assert that a tire
has failed as a result of an under inflated operation.

While use of a tire significantly under inflated can cause a tire
failure, the failure mode is most often in the sidewall where the
body plies have heated up under increased strain and the polyester
ply cords degrade causing the sidewall to burst or rip away from
the rest of the tire components. The failure mode of a tread belt
separation is not one commonly associated with being operated
under inflated.

Overloading

A tire tread belt failure caused by overloading of a tire is one for
which the tire manufacturers will not take responsibility.
Overloading is a condition that occurs when the tire is operated on
a vehicle and the vehicle weight alone or the operation of the
vehicle with additional cargo is beyond the design performance
range for the tire. Extreme instances of overloading can result in a
sidewall rupture, much like one that occurs in an under inflation
condition. Moderate instances of operating a tire in an overloaded
condition can add to the shoulder wear of a tire. If a tire is operated
in an overloaded condition for an extensive period of time, the belt
edges can begin to break down and polish.

96
Tire manufacturers often point to oily residue on the tread surface
or oily residue in a tread separation surface to suggest that this is
evidence of overloading. While this can potentially be evidence of
overloading, it can also be evidence of oils migrating from the belt
skim rubber as a result of the excessive polishing between belts
that have separated due to other reasons such as design or
manufacturing defects. The presence of an oily residue alone is not
evidence supportive of overloading.

Maintenance

While many of the common defenses listed here can fall under the
heading of maintenance, oftentimes manufacturers will point to
maintenance (or lack of maintenance) performed by a retailer or
tire service center as being the ultimate cause associated with a tire
failure.

For example, manufacturers will claim that tires were improperly
rotated or not rotated by tire service centers. Also, manufacturers
can assert that a tire retailer or service center provided the
consumer with tire sizes or designs not appropriate for the intended
use of vehicle involved in the case. It is also not unusual for tire
manufacturers to point to the retailer or service center for
providing tires that were too old to be put into service.

Bottom line, it is not unusual for a tire manufacturer to point to the
conduct of a tire retailer or service center as being the proximate
cause of a tire failure unrelated to a tire defect.

Impact damage

Tire manufacturers often point to what is described as latent
internal damage to a tire that leads to failure fifty to 20,000 miles
later, depending on the defense expert. Tire manufacturers claim
that injury to the internal components of the tire were caused as a

97
result of some impact with an external object that can be as small
as a Coke can to as large as a cement block. In reality, a tire failure
caused by impact damage actually produces a different failure
mode than a tread belt separation. An impact to a tire that is
significant enough to break through tread, steel belts, carcass, and
inner liner components would result in an immediate air-out of the
tire and not simply a tread belt separation.

Improper repairs

Tire manufacturers often raise this defense to suggest that by virtue
of finding any repair that the repair does not conform to the
“patch-plus-plug” variety of puncture repair. They argue that “a
plug by itself or a patch by itself is not an acceptable repair
because the plug does not permanently seal the inner liner and the
patch does not fill the void left by the penetrating object, which
allows water to enter the body of the tire and starting corroding the
steel belts.”100 Manufacturers contend that any “non-standard”
repair, such as a plug-only or patch-only repair, becomes the
proximate cause of the tire failure unrelated to defects in the tire.

This is one of those maintenance type issues where tire
manufacturers typically point to the tire service center as being
responsible for causing the tire failure. While improper tire repairs
can at times allow pressurized air to escape into the belted region
of the tire, each such instance has to be evaluated on a case-by-
case basis to determine whether it was a contributing factor to the
tread belt separation.

Punctures

“With every revolution, a tire runs the risk of being punctured by a
foreign object and since the average tire will experience millions
of revolutions throughout its lifespan, it is usually a matter of when
you get a flat, not if.”101

98
The above statement acutely depicts the typical manufacturer’s
fault-shifting tactic: they cannot be expected to avoid the
unavoidable. But this misleading claim ignores the science behind
punctures and their relationship to failed tires.

A puncture occurs when an object penetrates the interior portion of
the tire. Tire manufacturers claim that the mere fact that a puncture
exists demonstrates that there has been poor maintenance by tire
owners or that the puncture is a point of ingress for air or moisture
into the internal components of the tire causing a tread belt
separation.

However, these claims overlook the simple physical signs of a
puncturing event. If the puncture completely penetrates the tire to
the extent that there is loss of air (sometimes the inner liner seals
completely around the puncturing object and does not leak) this
leakage would find the “path of least resistance,” which is outside
the tire through the puncture. Punctures that do not penetrate
completely do not access the “air chamber” of the tire and often
result in localized points of rust on the belt wires in the vicinity of
the puncture but typically do not allow for air to migrate along the
belt cables to cause a tread belt separation. The lack of air
migration through a puncture is often attributable to the modern
day belt wire designs that are more robust than those of the ‘70s
and ‘80s.

Driver actions

A tread belt separation can take hundreds to thousands of miles to
propagate between the steel belts of a tire before culminating in a
tread belt detachment. The only portion of this a driver might
experience could be a slight ride vibration, but this does not occur
in every case. For many drivers, the first indication they have of an
impending problem with a tire is once the tread and top belt have
lifted from the carcass of the tire and have begun to peel away.

99
Once the tread lift is initiated, the event can last up to several
seconds. Tire manufacturers are often critical of a driver for
braking (or not), trying to correct the path of the vehicle through
steering or other corrective actions when the vehicle begins to
fishtail or oversteer. It is important to understand that these tread
belt separation episodes are often without any precursor or
warning to the driver.

As a result, drivers find themselves in an out-of-control scenario
where the vehicle ends up in a rollover situation or other life-
threatening condition as a driver is trying to respond to a handling
condition in the vehicle that they have never experienced. This
issue is more detailed above.

100
The purpose of this book has been to provide lawyers with a
primer to tire litigation. The value of intense case preparation
through discovery and expert selection has not been addressed in
this book. However, I hope that the contents will at least assist you
in getting started and help you to know what questions to ask as
you evaluate your potential tire case.

101
This book would not have been possible without the support of my
law firm and partners at Beasley Allen. The knowledge and
experience of great trial layers like Jere Beasley, Greg Allen and Cole
Portis has been a tremendous resource to me over the years. I also
have to say that I have learned much and been supported by many
great trial lawyers from organizations like the Attorney Information
Exchange Group, the Alabama Association for Justice, and the
Georgia Trial Lawyers Association. The practice of law representing
those who need help the most has been a humbling and rewarding
experience. I believe the needs of these clients pushes us all to find
justice for them through our great legal system. I am blessed to be
associated with these groups and thank them all.
 

    - Benjamin E. Baker

103
Citations 

                                                            
1
Turbyfill, Diane, Gaston Teens Survive Crash, Gaston Gazette (Sept. 19, 2016)
http://www.gastongazette.com/news/20160919/gaston-teens-survive-crash
(Nov. 5, 2016)
2
Ibid.
3
Ibid.
4
Ibid.
5
Ibid.
6
Ibid.
7
Keegan, Harrison “County jailer accused of sexual relationship with escaped
inmate, one inmate caught,” KSDK-TV (Sept. 20, 2016)
http://www.ksdk.com/news/crime/pulaski-county-jailer-accused-of-sexual-
relationship-with-escaped-inmate/321649786 (Nov. 5, 2016)
8
Ibid.
9
Ibid.
10
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Engineering
Analysis Report and Initial Decision Regarding EAOO-23; Firestone
Wilderness AT Tires (Oct. 2001)
11
Tire Aging: A Summary of NHTSA’s Work, U.S. Dept. of Transportation
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (March 2014)
12
Survivor of Ford Rollover Accident Testifies, Houston Chronicle, (Aug. 14,
2001) http://www.chron.com/business/article/Survivor-of-Ford-rollover-
accident-testifies-2018871.php (Dec. 3, 2016)
13
Ibid.
14
Ibid.
15
Ibid.
16
Ibid.
17
Ibid.
18
Greenwald, John, Inside the Ford/Firestone Fight, TIME Magazine (May 29,
2001) http://content.time.com/time/business/article/0,8599,128198,00.html,
(Dec. 3, 2016)
19
Simison, Robert, Lundegaard, Karen, Shirouzu, Norihiko, and Heller, Jenny;
How a Tire Problem Became a Crisis for Firestone, Ford, The Wall Street
Journal (Aug., 10, 2000) http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB965870212891028108
(Dec. 3, 2016)
20
Ibid..
21
Ibid.
22
Congressional Record, 106th Congress, 2nd Session, Issue: Vol. 146, No. 128,
https://www.congress.gov/congressional-record/2000/10/13/extensions-of-
remarks-section/article/e1778-
3?q=%7B%22search%22%3A%5B%22TREAD+act%22%5D%7D&r=4 (Dec.
3, 2016)

104
                                                                                                                                     
23
Ibid.
24
Tire Aging: A Summary of NHTSA’s Work, U.S. Dept. of Transportation
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, (March 2014)
25
Ibid.
26
“Do You Have a Lawsuit” is a pre-suit case evaluation methodology utilized
by Attorney G. Whit Drake.
27
The “Triangle” was first utilized by Attorney Lanny S. Vines.
28
The “Square” was developed and utilized by Attorney G. Whit Drake.
29
How Tires Are Made, Tire Industry Association,
https://www.tireindustry.org/how-tires-are-made (Dec. 3, 2016)
30
Beasley Allen principal LaBarron Boone discusses tire recalls, detreading,
BeasleyAllen.com https://www.beasleyallen.com/multimedia/beasley-allen-
principal-labarron-boone-discusses-tire-recalls-detreading (Dec. 27, 2016)
31
The Pneumatic Tire; DOT HS 810 561, February 2006
32
How Tires Are Made, Tire Industry Association,
https://www.tireindustry.org/how-tires-are-made (Dec. 3, 2016)
33
Ibid.
34
Ibid.
35
Ibid.
36
Ibid.
37
Ibid.
38
Ibid.
39
Ibid.
40
Ibid.
41
Ibid.
42
Ibid.
43
Ibid.
44
Ibid.
45
Petersen, Gene, Where Were Your Tires Made?, Consumer Reports (Oct. 14,
2015) http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/tires/where-are-tires-made (Dec. 3,
2016)
46
Ibid.
47
Ibid.
48
Ibid.
49
Ibid.
50
If Tire Labels Could Talk, Here’s What They’d Say, TireWise, NHTSA,
https://www.safercar.gov/tires/pages/tires_labeling.html, (Dec. 3, 2016)
51
Consumer Guide to Uniform Tire Quality Grading, NHTSA
52
 Colin, LT vs. Passenger Tires, TireRack.com, (June 7, 2010) 
http://blog.tirerack.com/blog/colintirerackcom/lt-tires-vs-passenger-
tires#sthash.0Xtb7hRy.dpuf (Dec.27, 2016) 
53
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Engineering
Analysis Report and Initial Decision Regarding EAOO-23; Firestone
Wilderness AT Tires, (Oct. 2001)

105
                                                                                                                                     
54
U.S. Patent 3,357,470, filed Dec. 15, 1965.
55
 U.S. Patent 3,357,470, filed Dec. 15, 1965; U.S. Patent 3,598,165, filed July
15, 1968; U.S. Patent 3,786,851, filed March 2, 1971; U.S. Patent 3,831,656,
filed March 27, 1972; U.S. Patent 3,850,219, filed Feb. 21, 1973; U.S. Patent
3,973,612, filed July 12, 1974; U.S. Patent 4,184,530, filed Nov. 21, 1978; U.S.
Patent 4,284,117, filed Dec. 3, 1979; U.S. Patent 4,407,347, filed Jan. 13, 1978;
U.S. Patent 4,724,881, filed Feb. 13, 1986; U.S. Patent 4,791,973, filed Jan. 25,
1988; U.S. Patent 4,934,430, filed Nov. 2, 1988. 
56
U.S. Patent 3,834,439, filed Jan. 26, 1973.
57
Ammons, Rob, Blowout: How Tire Defects Hurt and Kill, The Ammons Law
Firm, http://ammonslaw.com/wp-
content/uploads/2015/09/tire_defects_tire_detread.pdf (Dec. 3, 2016)
58
Ibid.
59
Ibid.
60
U.S. Patent 3,850,219 filed Feb. 21, 1973.
61
U.S. Patent 4,184,530 filed Nov. 21, 1978.
62
U.S. Patent 3,357,470, filed Dec. 15, 1965.
63
A Defective Tire Can Cause Major Problems, Sutliff & Stout Injury &
Accident Law Firm (Oct. 5, 2016)
https://myhoustoninjuryattorneys.com/automotive-product-liability/tire-defects/
(Dec. 3, 2016)
64
Ibid.
65
NHTSA – The Pneumatic Tire publication.
66
Ammons et. al., Tire Defect Litigation 3, Lawyers & Judges Publishing
Company (2016)
67
Photographs in this section showing manufacturing defects have been
graciously provided by Troy Cottles, forensic tire expert.
68
Ammons et. al., Tire Defect Litigation 134, Lawyers & Judges Publishing
Company (2016)
69
Beasley Allen principal LaBarron Boone discusses tire recalls, detreading,
BeasleyAllen.com https://www.beasleyallen.com/multimedia/beasley-allen-
principal-labarron-boone-discusses-tire-recalls-detreading (Dec. 27, 2016)
70
Causes of Tire Tread Separation and Delamination, Kaster, Lynch, Farrar, &
Ball, http://thetirelawyers.com/tire-litigation/tread-separation-faq/ (Dec. 3,
2016)
71
Ibid.
72
Renfroe, et al, Effects of the Process of Rear Tire Delamination on the Vehicle
Stability, Paper No. 07-0142.
73
Id.
74
Renfroe, et al., Designing for Vehicle Stability During Rear Tire Tread
Separation Events, IMECE 2006-13600; Isper, et al., Solid Axle Tramp
Response Near the Natural Frequency and its Effects on Vehicle Longitudnal
Stability, SAE 2008-01-0583; Gilbert, et al., Dynamic Testing of an SUV with
Tire Tread Separation, Canadian Multidisciplinary Road Safety Conf. XIX;

106
                                                                                                                                     
Gilbert, et al., The Effect of Tread-Separation on Vehicle Controlability, Hazard
Information Foundation, Inc. Tire Tech. Conf. 8/2010; Ardent, et al., Force
Response During Tire Tread Detachment Event, SAE Technical Paper 2000-01-
0697.
75
Causes of Tire Tread Separation and Delamination, Kaster, Lynch, Farrar, &
Ball, http://thetirelawyers.com/tire-litigation/tread-separation-faq/ (Dec. 3,
2016)
76
Bitterlin, Dane J., Practical Considerations in International Products
Liability Litigation, Neil Dymott Attorneys,
http://www.neildymott.com/practical-considerations-international-products-
liability-litigation (Dec. 3, 2016)
77
U.S. Liability for Foreign-Made Products, Larson King,
http://www.larsonking.com/files/Foreign_Products_Liability.pdf, (Dec. 3, 2016)
78
Ibid.
79
Ibid.
80
Ibid.
81
Ibid.
82
Ibid.
83
2008 Recommended Best Practices for Importers of Motor Vehicle and Motor
Vehicle Equipment, NHTSA; Also, see, 1975, Handbook and Standards for
Manufacturing Safer Consumer Products, CPSC.
84
Tire Aging: A Summary of NHTSA’s Work (March 2014)
85
Tire Safety, Safety Research & Strategies, Inc.
86
Ammons et. al., Tire Defect Litigation 35, Lawyers & Judges Publishing
Company (2016)
87
Tire Aging: A Summary of NHTSA’s Work (March 2014)
88
Ammons et. al., Tire Defect Litigation 35, Lawyers & Judges Publishing
Company (2016)
89
Tire Aging: A Summary of NHTSA’s Work (March 2014)
90
Tire Safety, Safety Research & Strategies, Inc.
91
Ibid.
92
CNN Money (May 20, 2005) Ford: Older tires need to be replaced,
http://money.cnn.com/2005/05/20/Autos/oldtires/ (Jan. 6, 2017)
93
TireWise, NHTSA, https://www.safercar.gov/tires/index.html (Dec. 3, 2016)
94
 Forensic Tire Expert, Troy Cottles, is a contributor to this section. 
95
Why Do Tires Fail, Tire Industry Association,
https://www.tireindustry.org/why-do-tires-fail (Dec. 3, 2016)
96
Ibid.
97
Ibid.
98
Ibid.
99
Ibid.
100
Tire Repair, Tire Industry Association, https://www.tireindustry.org/tire-
maintenance/tire-repair (Dec. 3, 2016)
101
Ibid.

107
Index
A

Accident reconstruction – 16, 41
Alignment – 60

B

Belt – 1-2, 7, 10-11, 16-17, 28, 36, 38, 40, 42-46, 48-54, 60, 63, 66, 68, 70,
72-73, 78-79, 90, 94, 96-100
Belt wedge – 49-52
BFGoodrich – 22
Blowout – 1-2, 6
Bridgestone – 10, 22, 48, 88

C

Cap ply – 49, 51-52
Consumer Product Safety Commission – 83
Cooper – 22, 52, 88
CPSC – 83

D

Damages – 2, 17, 39
Delamination – 7, 79-80
Department of Transportation – 23
Design defect – 48-49, 56
Detread – 6-7, 91
DOT number – 23, 25, 28, 89
Dunlop – 22, 48

E

Evidence – 11, 17-18, 38-42, 44-46, 59-60, 73, 94-97

F

Firestone – 10-12, 22, 43, 51, 81, 88
Foreign material – 76-77

108
G

Goodyear – 22, 48

H

Halobutyl – 55

I

Impact – 27, 30, 32, 78, 94, 97-98
Import – 82-84
Inflation – 30-31, 33, 94-96
Inner Liner – 17, 49, 54-55, 72, 74, 98-99
Investigation – 18, 40, 51, 92

J

Jurisdiction – 18, 26, 83

L

Liability – 2, 6, 16-18, 27, 38, 82-84, 88-89, 91, 94
Liner pattern – 56, 59
Loading – 27, 34, 96-97

M

Maintenance – 18, 26-28, 32, 89, 94, 97-99
Michelin – 22, 48, 88

N

NASS-CDS – 12
National Automotive Sampling System-Crashworthiness Data System – 12,
79
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration – 11, 26, 78, 82-83, 86
National Transportation Safety Bureau – 92
NHTSA – 11-12, 25-26, 30-31, 78, 83, 86-87, 92
NTSB – 92
Nylon wrap – 49, 51

109
O

Oversteer – 80-81, 89-90, 100
Oxidation – 72-73, 86-87

P

Porosity – 54, 75
PSI – 31-32, 36
Punctures – 20, 28, 98-99

R

Radial tires – 20, 48-49, 52, 54, 60
Recalls – 10-11, 28-29, 82, 91-92
Repairs – 28, 98
Rollover – 7, 11, 40, 81, 86, 100
Rubber – 11, 20-21, 49-50, 52-56, 58, 60, 72-73, 75, 82, 87, 91, 94-95, 97

S

Shearography – 46

T

Tire age – 86, 91
Tire defect – 2, 6-7, 16-17, 19, 22, 28, 38, 54, 78, 97
Tire pressure – 31-32, 34
Transportation Recall Enhancement, Accountability and Documentation
(TREAD) Act – 11
Tread – 1-2, 6-7, 10-11, 16-17, 20-21, 28, 36-38, 40-44, 46, 48-49, 51, 53, 60,
75, 78-81, 86-91, 94-100
Tread belt separation – 1-2, 7, 10-11, 16-17, 28, 36, 40, 53, 60, 78-79, 90, 94,
96, 98-100
Tread plies – 20

U

Understeer – 80-81

110
V

Vehicle door placard – 30-31
Vehicle handling – 11, 16, 32, 36-37, 42, 79, 89

W

Witness – 18, 40

X

X-ray- 45, 60

Y

Yokohama – 22

111
112