By Russ and Tiña De Maris
The wheels of justice – or in this case, the tires of justice – turn slowly. But Goodyear Tire must pay for their sins. In this case, a federal court in Arizona has ordered the big tire giant to pay out $520,000. This for concealing evidence and discovery materials in a motorhome tire blowout case.
Not safe for motorhomes
You may recall the case of Leroy and Donna Haeger, an Arizona couple whose motorhome rolled over in 2003. A Goodyear steer tire blew out, blasting the coach off the roadway. The Haegers and two others on board their motorhome were injured. The couple filed suit in 2005, alleging that the Goodyear-made tires on their motorhome, originally designed for local delivery trucks, were unsuitable for use on motorhomes.
Goodyear dragged discovery on the case out for almost five long years. During that time, the attorneys for the Heagers had to force the tire firm back to court. Why? To get the company to turn over test information about the G159 tires in question. Just before the scheduled trial in 2010, the family and Goodyear reached an out-of-court settlement. But Goodyear Tire must pay again. Why?
“Repeated, deliberate decisions”
In their original move for discovery, the Haegers had pushed Goodyear to provide internal company documents on heat and speed tests performed on the G159 tires. At the time, Goodyear adamantly declared that no such documents existed. But only after the settlement, the couple’s attorney saw an interesting article. It pointed to the very documents that Goodyear claimed didn’t exist. The Haegers dragged Goodyear back to court. This time they asked for sanctions against Goodyear, and the company’s attorneys, for hiding requested evidence.
In 2012 a federal judge sided with the Haegers. The judge declared that the tire maker and their attorneys had made “repeated, deliberate decisions” to “delay the production of relevant information, make misleading and false in-court statements, and conceal relevant documents.” The court ordered that Goodyear and its attorney, Basil Musnuff, and his firm, Roetzel & Andress Musnuff, hand over $2.7 million.
Supreme Court reacts
Goodyear appealed, and the matter eventually landed in the U.S. Supreme Court. Early in 2017 the Supreme Court ruled that the amount exceeded the Haegers’ actual attorney’s fees. “In other words, the fee award may go no further than to redress the wronged party ‘for losses sustained,’” reads the opinion. “It may not impose an additional amount as punishment for the sanctioned party’s misbehavior.”
Late this month a court determined the actual amount Goodyear Tire must pay is more than $520,000. The amount includes attorney’s fees and interest that has accrued since the original judgment. Attorney Musnuff had already handed over $1.1 million following the initial ruling, so Goodyear was granted an offset of that $1.1 million against the judgment made on March 26. This left them with the $520,000 to pay.
Not the only suit
This isn’t the only lawsuit regarding the G159 tire that Goodyear has had to deal with. As of 2018, 41 lawsuits had been filed against Goodyear for alleged defects in these tires, according to Jalopnik. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration has opened an investigation into the matter.
Photo: David Kurtz via jalopnik.com