Kumho Tire ordered to pay trucker $3M for rollover crash
October 18, 2021
A trucker was awarded more than $3 million by aPennsylvania jury that found Kumho Tire liable for a defective tire that caused the man’s truck to crash and rollover.
A jury recently awarded Milford Stevens more than $3 million in damages for a lawsuit filed against Korean company Kumho Tire in the Court of Common Pleas in Allegheny, Pa. Stevens suffered serious injuries after a defective tire caused his truck to roll over.
According to the complaint, Stevens was hauling more than 72,000 pounds of sand in a 2007 Mack tri-axle dump truck owned by Thomas Construction. The tread on a Kumho Powerfleet 983 tire installed on the left steer side of the truck suddenly separated while Stevens was travelling at highway speeds on U.S. 422 near Muddy Creek Township. The truck flipped, causing Stevens to suffer neurological and physical injuries, including vertebrae, head and face injuries.
Attorneys for Stevens presented evidence suggesting that the Kumho tire was defective in design. Therefore, they argued, Kumho should not have had the tire on the market. Evidence included showing the tire belts lack the ability to prevent premature failure because of oxidation issues. Other issues were found with the tire belts, including irregularly spaced belt wires, gapped/overlapped belt splices and stacked belt endings.
Stevens initially sued Altoona, Pa.-based Good Tire Service, the company that allegedly sold him the tire, over the September 2014 crash. Kumho Tire was later added to the lawsuit. Good Tire Service ended up reaching an out-of-court settlement with Stevens.
In its pretrial statement, Kumho claimed that Stevens “overused and abused the tire” after months or years of hauling tens of thousands of pounds of rock, coal and sand from rough quarry and construction site roads.
“Had (Stevens) and his employer conducted proper inspections as required by federal regulations (and the label embossed right on the tire), they would have known the tire’s condition,” Kumho argued in the pretrial statement. “Had they done something more than thumping the tire with a ball-peen hammer to see if it still held air, they would have replaced it long before the accident. Nothing about the design or manufacture of this tire (neither of which Kumho Tire USA Inc. performed) was improper or led to this unfortunate accident.”
According to Kumho, there are no records of where or when the tire was purchased and installed. Expert testimony suggested that the tire “had less than the legal minimum 4/32 inch of tread in numerous places by the time of the accident.”
Ajury found the tire manufacturer liable for the crash and awarded Stevens $3 million.
“This truck was a ticking time bomb because manufacturers like Kumho Tire USA are driven by profit rather than safety,” Wes Ball, Stevens’ attorney, said in a statement. “Bad designs cause bad problems. Companies like this shouldn’t be allowed to benefit from our system of trade while disregarding the safety of our citizens.”
Kumho Tires could not be reached for comment. LL