After years of quietly managing a flurry of lawsuits it sought to keep out of public view, Goodyear has been forced by a court decision and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to provide documents and data on problems with its G159 tire, blamed in the death or injury of up to 95 people.
The Houston Chronicle says that multiple lawsuits and safety advocates claim that the tire was improperly marketed to the recreational vehicle industry when it was designed for delivery vehicles, which do not operate at highway speeds for extended periods of time. Extended time spent at highway speeds causes heating, which leads to failure for tires not suited for that usage.
Mayhem kept under wraps
NHTSA says the case involves 40,000 tires manufactured over the seven years between 1996 and 2003. The death and injury claims started with two cases in 1998 and ramped up to a peak of 57 between 2003 and 2015.
Jalopnik reports that 41 lawsuits have been filed against Goodyear in the years since the tire was introduced in 1996. Information from those cases was sealed by confidentiality agreements that complainants were convinced to sign as part of a settlement with the manufacturer.
The safety advocacy group Center for Auto Safety and Public Justice, lead by Jason Levine, sought to have the suppressed case records divulged and this week an Arizona judge agreed.
Levine said it would have been better if NHTSA began investigating sooner, “but the real problem here is that Goodyear was using secret settlements for two decades to hide information about these dangerous tires from the government and the public.”
The court required the information be unsealed and released to the NHTSA. In his ruling, Judge John Hannah put public access to the information ahead of Goodyear’s claim for confidentiality. Per Judge Hannah:
“That information—primarily concerning the tire’s design, its testing, the decision to market it for use on motorhomes, and the adjustment data generated by consumer experience with it—should be made public because it relates to and reveals a substantial potential risk to public health or safety.”
Prying out the information
Information about these case should not have been kept under wraps for 22 years. The G159 problems on RVs emerged shortly after its introduction to the RV market. How many people could have been spared maiming injuries and even death had the consuming public been alerted much sooner?
Imagine the shock a driver gets with a blowout at highway speeds in a huge, boxy RV, as this terrifying video shows.
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