Bruce Kaster In the News:
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BRUCE R. KASTER, PA
125 NE 1st Ave.
Box 100, Suite 3
Ocala, Florida 34478-0100
Phone: (352) 622-1600
Copyright © 2005 by Bruce R. Kaster, PA. All rights reserved. You may reproduce
Meet The Tire Industry's "Public Enemy Number One"
Extensive litigation experience against major tire manufacturers and vehicle manufacturers, including Bridgestone, Firestone, Goodyear, Continental General, Cooper Tire, Ford Motor Company and others.
Tread Separation Tire Failures
Firestone Tire Company has been plagued with tread belt detachment tire failures, (commonly referred to as tread separations), for decades. The two largest tire recalls in history were both Firestone tires as a result of tread belt separations. The first was the Firestone 500 recall which occurred in 1978. The more recent recall in 2000 was of Bridgestone/Firestone’s ATX, ATX II and Wilderness AT tires that were original equipment on Ford Explorers. This was the most massive tire recall in history.
Mr. Kaster was intimately involved in the 2000 recall as evidenced in widespread news coverage. He appeared in numerous interviews for all of the major television networks as well as Canadian broadcasting. He was also featured in magazine articles, newspaper interviews worldwide, radio appearances, and public appearances. He was involved in the national Multi-District Federal Litigation, the Texas Multi-District Litigation, as well as scores of private lawsuits across the country, and he assisted the Attorneys General in their RICO litigation against Bridgestone/Firestone. Mr. Kaster found the initial whistle blowers from Firestone’s plant in Decatur, Illinois, and he took the depositions of these critical witnesses as well as other Firestone witnesses in the MDL and in individual products liability lawsuits around the country.
The tires involved in the 2000 recall were extensively studied by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Attorneys General for all fifty states, and their expert, Dennis Carlson, experts involved with the MDL class action, including Dick Baumgardner, as well as experts in a Texas class action, and experts in hundreds of independent products liability lawsuits across the country. There was also an independent expert, Sanjay Govindjee, Ph.D., who did a root cause analysis as well on behalf of Firestone.
Through analysis by the experts, including two of the foremost tire failure analysts in the country, Dick Baumgardner and Dennis Carlson, and review of Firestone’s internal documents and the testimony of Firestone employees, Mr. Kaster assisted litigants in determining the root cause for the Firestone tread separation failures. Mr. Carlson’s sworn statement explaining the design defects in the recalled tires is attached [hyperlink to Carlson's sworn statement].
Simply put, the cause of the failures was a combination of factors which included design defects of all the tires and manufacturing defects in many of them, combined with Ford’s recommendation that the tires be run nine pounds under-inflated. The design defects included reduction in the belt edge wedge (a critical component in preventing tread belt separations), the inadequate gauge and chemical composition of the inner liners, breakdown of the skim stock which surrounds the steel belt cords, deep tread grooves near the belt edges which could allow moisture to penetrate into the belt edge area of the tire, the design of the tread which caused excessive heat which combined with the heat generated by running the tires underinflated resulting in tread separation failures of the defectively designed tires.
The recalled tires were tires with a recommended sidewall pressure of 36 pounds. However, as a result of ADAMS modeling of the Ford Explorer by a Firestone engineer, Francis J. Figliomeni, it was determined that the Explorer was unstable with the tire sizes selected by Ford for the Explorer unless the tires were underinflated by nine pounds. Many people find it strange that a Bridgestone/Firestone engineer would conduct the ADAMS sign-off modeling for the Ford Explorer. There has never been a satisfactory answer to this question.
When Mr. Figliomeni’s deposition was taken by Mr. Kaster and Richard Denney in the MDL, he indicated that Firestone’s decision to use a 235/75R15 tire on the Explorer resulted in instability of the vehicle. Instead of going to the “proper” sized tire, the 225/70R15, Firestone elected to utilize the larger tire for marketing purposes. In order for the Explorer to marginally pass the ADAMS modeling for stability, the tire had to be underinflated nine pounds. This nine-pound underinflation caused the already weakened tire to run hotter than normal. Because the inner liner utilized in these tire lines was inadequate, there was the potential for additional air loss during operation over and above what would be anticipated which resulted in all Bridgestone/Firestone tires mounted on Explorers being run significantly underinflated at some point. It is important to note that Michelin tires and Goodyear tires were also utilized on Explorers and they were also run underinflated, but there were virtually no tread separation failure fatalities as a result of tread separations of Michelin or Goodyear tires. This was confirmation of the defects in the Bridgestone/Firestone recalled tires.
Unfortunately, many other Bridgestone/Firestone tires had the same design defects as the ATX and Wilderness tires. The only difference is that they were not initially run at nine pounds underinflated. However, many of these tires in various lines also failed from tread belt separations. This involved various tire lines including Steeltex tires, Dueler tires, Firehawk tires, and others. Mr. Kaster has taken the sworn testimony of Firestone’s representative, Brian Queiser, who has admitted that many Firestone tires have the same construction as the recalled tires. [hyperlink to Queiser deposition] This is apparently why so many different Bridgestone/Firestone tires have suffered tread belt separations resulting in catastrophic accidents since the recall. [hyperlink to Carlson’s sworn statement] Surprisingly, there are also some recalled tires still in service. These are usually tires that were spares on vehicles and were not returned as part of the recall.
As Ford noted in one of their presentations, “[i]t has been perfectly feasible, for many years, to design and manufacture tires with tread separation failure rates approaching zero – for example, the Goodyear tires fitted to Ford Explorers.” Indeed, a properly designed and constructed steel belted radial tire will not suffer tread belt separation, even when a tire is run underinflated. The mode of failure of an underinflated tire would be sidewall failure, not tread belt separation. Accordingly, any steel belted radial passenger and light truck tire that suffers a tread belt separation in service is defective, either in design, manufacture, or both. The problem with tread belt separation of Bridgestone/Firestone tires is well explained in the sworn statement of Dennis Carlson who was the expert for the fifty Attorneys General in their RICO action against Firestone. [hyperlink to Carlson’s sworn statement]
Anyone who experiences a tread separation accident and injuries as a result of a tread belt separation of Bridgestone/Firestone steel belted radial passenger or light truck tire has a viable products liability claim against Bridgestone/Firestone for design defects and probably manufacturing defects as well. As reflected in Firestone’s own periodic recall announcements involving tread separations “[t]hese tires may sustain a tread separation in which the outer belt and tread may separate from the tire. If this occurs, you could lose control of your vehicle, which could result in a crash.” These tread belt separation accidents involve tires both with air loss (blowout) and tires that retain their air, even after tread separation. The common factor is the tread separation which causes a loss of control as has been well documented by many studies, some of which have been conducted at the request of Mr. Kaster by accident reconstruction experts
Do You Have Legal Questions About Tire Defects, Blowouts, or Tire Tread Separations? Call (352) 622-1600