Last week, the Washington Post highlighted a report by The Center for Investigative Reporting that found dangerous conditions in Goodyear's Fayetteville, North Carolina, and Danville, Virginia plants that led to five worker deaths since 2015. Intensive production demands and poor conditions at the plants led to a "shocking collapse of safety controls" at the company's plants, which manufacture consumer tires commonly used on the nations highways. The report also suggested that problems at the plants, including leaking roofs and a quota-driven culture led to defects in tires that killed multiple motorists. In one case, an injured motorist obtained a $16 million product liability verdict against Goodyear, one of the largest such verdicts ever in the state of Michigan. In that case, the victim's lawyer argued that Goodyear had "ramped up production," which led to reduced quality in tire production. The victim was rendered a quadriplegic when the Goodyear tire on his vehicle sustained a tread separation, leading the vehicle to lose control and crash. The report identifies notes that in addition to the victim in the Michigan case, at least four other people were as a result of failures of tires made at the two plants. In at least one case, Goodyear argued that the tires were safe and that the vehicle must have hit an object that caused the tire to fail.
Tires are a relatively common cause of car accidents, and one in which a defect may be impossible to detect until a catastrophic defect develops. In some cases, tires that are too old can fail due to deterioration of the rubber, while in others the tires may have hidden manufacturing or design defects. Goodyear employees interviewed in the report indicated that, along with the increased production demands, roof leaks during rain storm weakened the tire construction, possible leading to failures. A product liability lawsuit may be viable when someone is killed or injured due to a defective product, whether through design, manufacture, or a failure to warn of a potential danger. These cases are often complex, however, and may require multiple experts and extensive depositions and discovery to uncover the design history of the product and, potentially, the manufacturer's knowledge of the condition. In some cases, product manufacturers make decisions to develop products at a lower cost, but that ultimately pose a danger to the ultimate consumer.