A state supreme court has granted approval for a defective tire lawsuit to proceed in state court against one of China’s largest auto parts manufacturers.
The case stems from severe injury suffered by a teen worker when a reportedly defective tire exploded at his father’s auto repair shop.
In Book v. Voma Tire Corp., the Iowa Supreme Court flatly rejected the claim by Doublestar Dongent Tyre Company that it could not be sued in state court because the company didn’t operate in that state — its tires were shipped through a distributor in Tennessee.
The unanimous 7-0 ruling reversed an earlier ruling by the trial court, which had sided with the company, finding the firm didn’t have enough contact in the state to be subject to its courts. By contrast, the state supreme court ruled the firm shipped thousands of tires directly to Iowa through a retailer in Des Moines, even if this particular tire was shipped through a distributor in another state.
That finding means the injured young man can pursue damages against the foreign firm (along with several others).
Our Spartanburg injury attorneys recognize the ruling as potentially having national significance, considering tires made by foreign companies (particularly China) with outdated specifications are continuing to enter the U.S. market. In fact, almost all light-truck tires (like the one central to this case) are manufactured in China, and may be prone to explosion when they are improperly mounted to an older rim.
That’s what happened in this case, when the teen’s father reportedly tried to mount a 16-inch tire on an older rim that measured 16.5 inches. This is reportedly a “common mistake,” according to the court’s ruling. Midway through the installation, he got a phone call and walked away from the vehicle on which he was trying to mount the tire.
Meanwhile, his son, then 17, who was working at the shop as an apprentice, walked in with a co-worker. He saw the tire was in need of inflating, and took it upon himself to do the job, though he didn’t first consult with his father. The tire exploded while he was inflating it, resulting in severe injuries. The young man is now blinded in one eye, lost part of his jaw and no longer has a sense of taste or smell. Additionally, he only has partial use of his left hand and arm.
His injuries required extensive treatment and rehabilitation. It is likely he will never fully recover.
He and his mother filed the lawsuit for pain, suffering and coverage of medical expenses, alleging the foreign manufacturer produced tires prone to explosion when they are mistakenly placed on wrong-sized, older rims.
The U.S. Supreme Court has yet to set forth any clear guidance about how foreign manufacturers can be held accountable in state court product liability cases, which is why this state-level decision matters. Other state high courts often look to the decision/legal reasoning of similarly-situated courts handling the same questions.
In this case, the Iowa high court ruled that while there may be legal logic upon which to exempt smaller foreign companies from this kind of state-level litigation, this case involved a firm that produces and distributes millions of tires each year.
The intention with product liability lawsuits is to ensure the costs for injuries resulting from defective products are covered by the companies that put them on the market. That purpose would be undermined, the court said, if it blocked this case.
Now, the case reverts back to the lower court for trial.
Contact the South Carolina injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.
Book v. Voma Tire Corp., March 6, 2015, Iowa Supreme Court
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