A California superior court jury has awarded US$18m to a family who lost their 11-year-old son in a rollover accident caused by the catastrophic failure of an aged, recalled Firestone tyre.
The jury found that American Tire Depot was negligent for installing the 12-year-old spare despite its recall status and Firestone inspection guidelines against using tyres more than 10 years of age.
In January 2006, Ramon Moreno took the family’s 1994 Ford Explorer to American Tire Depot to replace two rear tyres. ATD, a Firestone dealer, advised Moreno to rotate the spare, a recalled Firestone Radial ATX, onto the vehicle and sold him one new tyre. The family had bought the Explorer used in 2005 and was unaware that the Firestone spare was 12 years old and part of the massive 2000 Firestone recall.
Firestone had already advised dealers against the use of tyres older than 10 years, regardless of the tread depth. Ford had also issued a warning in 2005 advising against the use of tyres older than six years. Ford’s warning said: “Tyres degrade over time, even when they are not being used. . . You should replace the spare tyre when you replace the other road tyres due to the ageing of the spare tyre.”
At the trial, ATD acknowledged that it provided no training for its tyre technicians on tyre aging or how to read the tyre date. The company also admitted that it lacked any policies or procedures to identify and capture recalled tyres. An ATD store manager testified that he would provide the same service again; a company representative claimed he would expect a technician to do “nothing” if presented with an aged, recalled tyre.
The jury found ATD was 85% liable for Willie Moreno’s death. The Moreno family had previously settled their case against Firestone.