Florida Defective Tire Tread Attorneys
Tire litigation is a class of product liability claims that seeks to determine responsibility for damages caused by defective vehicular tires. Such liability can rest anywhere throughout the chain of production, distribution, storage, sale or any combination of these areas. While this type of litigation is most common in automobile tires, product liability can extend to all types of tires, including aircraft, farm and industrial use tires.
In recent years a number of major tire manufacturers including Cooper and Firestone have issued recalls in their product lines. Despite these recalls, product defects in tires continue to be a staggering source of injuries. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), over 8,000 crashes every year involve death or serious bodily injury due to faulty tires. Tire tread separation at high speeds can cause blowouts, secondary debris damage and the loss of control of a vehicle, sometimes even resulting in rollovers. Loss of control issues are multiplied in vehicles with a high center of gravity and significant mass, such as semi-trucks and sport utility vehicles.
There are no federal product liability laws. Instead, product liability laws are either model laws adopted by the states or laws which find their origin entirely in a state’s legislature. Product liability is generally considered a strict liability offense. Strict liability offenses do not depend on the degree of care exercised by the defendant. When a product is demonstrated to be defective and that defect causes harm, the manufacturer will be liable.
Any defect caused in the product along the supply chain creates liability. This extends to how the tire was designed, how it was manufactured and how it was marketed. Design defects are inherent in the product. They exist before the product is manufactured. While an item may serve its purpose well, it may nevertheless be unreasonably dangerous to use due to a design flaw. Manufacturing defects occur during the construction or production of the item. In this case, only a few out of many products of the same type may be defective. Defects in marketing deal with improper instructions and failures to warn consumers of latent dangers in the product.
Steel-Belted Tire Manufacturing Design Defects
Steel-belted tires are normally considered advantageous because they are durable and resistant to punctures associated with roadways, such as those from unfinished surfaces, debris and potholes. However, a majority of tire tread cases arise out of manufacturing and design defects in these tires. Tire tread separation is an inherent weakness associated with the production of steel-belted tires.
A steel-belted tire is made by alternating layers of soft rubber compound with layers of steel belting over the tire’s core. After tread is applied, the tire is subjected to pressurization and heat to cure the assembly and produce a finished tire. The heat and pressure cause chemical reactions that form adhesive polymer chains to hold the layers of a tire together. During the life of the tire, air from inside the tire naturally migrates through the layers of the rubber. The oxygen in that air causes a form of oxidation that breaks down the polymer bonds. That, in turn, breaks down the adhesion between the layers of the tire and results in the tire layers separating.
Another problem inherent with the production of steel-belted tires is that steel does not naturally adhere to rubber. In order to obtain better bonding between the steel and rubber, manufacturers can coat the steel with brass compounds. While this improves the adhesive quality of the rubber to the belting, brass breaks down more quickly than the steel does. Subject to the same oxidative degradation issues that break down polymer bonds, the belting itself breaks down inside the rubber. Breakdown of all these compounds is exacerbated by high heat. The heat necessary to do damage can be caused by normal use but can even be caused by high heat in ambient air, such as in temperatures commonly found in the southern United States.
Tire manufacturers use antioxidant compounds in the belt skim stock and other components of the tire to combat these effects. Manufacturing considerations, such as cost of production, may impact the amount of antioxidant used in a tire. Cost measures can also impact the quality of materials or even result in the failure to use readily available safety technology in making the tire.
The attorneys at Podhurst Orseck understand the issues in tire tread separation. Since our founding nearly four decades ago, we have established a nationally-recognized litigation practice and have handled hundreds of product liability cases throughout the United States. Our team of trial lawyers, paralegals, investigators and experts understands product design, testing and quality control procedures unique to the tire industry. Although we are based in Florida, we serve as national and regional product liability counsel for major clients across the United States.