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Broward County p73

The estate of the 45-year-old male decedent brought this products liability action against the manufacturer of a tire, which the plaintiff claimed blew out at highway speed causing a fatal accident. The sellers of the tire were also named as defendants in the case, but their defense was assumed by the defendant manufacturer. The defendant manufacturer argued that the accident was caused by human error and that the tire did not fail until after the vehicle driven by the decedent had left the road surface. The tire was also weakened by abuse and an improper repair, according to defense arguments.

The plaintiff was driving a Ford pick-up truck with a utility body owned by his employer, an asphalt company, when the truck left the road surface and overturned. The plaintiff was pronounced dead at the scene. The plaintiff’s accident reconstruction expert testified that the accident was caused when the right rear tire of the truck blew out, causing the decedent to lose control of the vehicle and leave the road surface. The plaintiff’s tire experts testified, based upon their inspection of the tire in question after the accident, that the tire was defectively manufactured by the defendant. The tire lacked proper adhesion of the rubber components causing it to fail, according to the plaintiff’s experts. Evidence showed that the tire was two to three years old and had been driven approximately ________ miles. The decedent, a welder, was survived by his wife and three minor children by other women.

The defendant’s accident reconstruction expert testified that the decedent drifted off the road surface, the truck came back onto the road in a yaw configuration, impacted the right rear tire on the side of the road and caused the tire failure. The defense pointed to the failure mechanism of the tire to argue that the tire was subjected to severe side forces when it returned to the road surface. Additionally, photographs of the wheel (which was lost prior to trial and before it could be examined by the defendant manufacturer) showed asphalt inside the wheel flange and severe distortion, further indicating a sideways movement as the truck attempted to reenter the road surface, according to defense experts. The defendant’s tire expert also opined that the tire in question was weakened by abuse and an improper repair which caused tread separation in the area of the repair. The defense presented a computer animation showing the defendant’s version of the accident from both a bird’s eye view and ground level view.

The defendant introduced video tests showing that tire blow outs which occur on the road invariably leave marks on the road. The defense argued that the video demonstrated that marks would have been left on the road surface if the tire in question had failed before leaving the road. The absence of such marks on the road indicated that the tire failure occurred after the truck driven by the decedent had left the road surface, according to defense arguments.

The associate medical examiner who performed the decedent’s autopsy testified that a small amount of the drug Dalmane, a prescription sleeping aid, was found in the decedent’s blood at two-thirds the therapeutic level. This expert also opined that the level of the drug found could have made the decedent drowsy. p 7 3 The defendant contended that the decedent may have fallen asleep at the wheel, causing the truck to drift off the road surface.

The decedent had been driving for approximately 45 minutes at the time of the accident and was en-route to work. His schedule had been interrupted shortly before the accident and he was staying at the home of his mother-in-law.

The jury found that the tire was not defective. The case is currently on appeal.

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