Michelin Has Knowingly Been Selling Defective Tires, But Won’t Own Up
Mike FerraraFebruary 09, 2012 8:52 PM
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After almost two years of a series of bad faith efforts to keep information about its defective, dangerous tires private, Michelin North America has been ordered by a federal judge in Atlanta to pay plaintiff’s attorney’s fees for deliberately holding up a case against the company.
In November 2009, in Bates v. Michelin North America, Michelin was sued for negligence and liability for a tire-related rollover crash that rendered the driver a quadriplegic, with permanent spinal and brain injuries. The crash happened when the left rear Uniroyal Laredo tire of the driver’s 2001 GMC Jimmy suffered a tread separation, causing a loss of control and a rollover. The driver was wearing his seatbelt at the time of the crash.
Although the plaintiff’s attorneys requested numerous documents and data relating to Michelin’s tire safety testing, the number of tires being returned for manufacturing defects, etc., Michelin deliberately held up the discovery process, first by claiming confidentiality issues were involved, and then by producing a series of meaningless documents that didn’t contain any of the requested data.
“In sum, Michelin’s bad faith conduct caused serious prejudice to the integrity of the legal process and to Plaintiffs’ orderly, effective development and proof of their case,” U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg, of the Northern District of Georgia, wrote in her 61-page decision. “The pattern of abuse by Michelin is extremely troubling…“First, Michelin made multiple misrepresentations to the Court that it had produced documents as ordered by the Court when it in fact had not. Second, Michelin repeatedly refused to produce documents in direct violation of the Court’s January 3rd, June 3rd and June 24th Orders. Third, Michelin intentionally engaged in an extremely narrow, unjustified interpretation of the Court’s Orders in order to limit, or altogether avoid, producing relevant and useful documents in response to Plaintiffs’ discovery requests.”–SafetyResearch.net
Judge Totenberg also acknowledged that Michelin’s Laredo tire was “defective and unreasonably dangerous.” Although the court has yet to decide whether the Laredo tire caused the accident in question, it just couldn’t look worse for Michelin at this point.