Gray•Duffy Negotiates Highly Favorable Settlement for Tire Company in Rollover Wrongful Death Action

August 2012

Overview

Kevin Cruz of Gray•Duffy’s Encino office successfully negotiated the resolution of a wrongful death case on behalf of the firm’s client, Armada Frame & Wheel Alignment. The vehicle had a blowout of the left rear tire causing the vehicle to roll over and killing the front passenger.

Discussion

Andrade v. Cooper Tire & Rubber Company, et al.

On November 12, 2006, Ms. Christina Andrade was driving her 1984 Chevrolet Blazer on the southbound 5 freeway in San Diego County. Her husband Fernando was in the passenger seat and their two children were in the backseat. The left rear tire exploded causing the Blazer to flip over. In the course of the rollover, Fernando was ejected out the passenger side window and died on the scene. Ms. Andrade suffered serious injuries; however, the children suffered no sustaining injuries.

The plaintiffs filed suit alleging negligence and products liability against the tire manufacturer, Cooper Tire & Rubber Company (Cooper) and Gray•Duffy’s client, Armada Frame & Wheel Alignment (Armada). It was confirmed that Cooper manufactured the tire that exploded, however, it was later discovered that Armada had not installed the tire on Ms. Andrade’s vehicle.
Months before the accident, Ms. Andrade asked a friend who worked at Armada to look at her tires; he agreed and recommended she buy four new tires. She could only afford to replace two tires and it was decided that the front two tires should be changed because they were the most worn. It was therefore established that Armada did not install the defective tire, was not therefore in the stream of commerce, and could not be liable on a products liability theory.

The plaintiffs, however, adjusted their theory of liability and claimed that Armada was liable because the industry standards dictate that when you are only replacing two tires, the new tires should be installed in the back. If Armada had done so, it was alleged, the accident would not have happened in the manner it did. After consulting with industry experts, it was discovered that this is indeed a widely-accepted industry standard. However, this standard is based on maintaining better control during hydroplaning conditions which had no application to the circumstances. Nonetheless, given the nature of the plaintiffs and the severity of the circumstances, and the potential exposure at a jury trial, a settlement was recommended. Gray•Duffy estimated exposure at trial was well in excess of one million dollars even with an offset applied for the plaintiff’s settlement with Cooper.

After multiple sessions of mediation, the case was settled with Cooper paying a total of $800,000 and Armada paying $99,750. Mr. Cruz had recommended a settlement up to $200,000, but was able to negotiate a settlement at less than half that amount.

Please Note: This article is necessarily general in nature and is not a substitute for legal advice with respect to any particular case. Readers should consult with an attorney before taking any action affecting their interests.