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Faulty Tire Repair Brings $22.8 Million Court Award

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A bad tire repair and a lack of proper repair training led to a record $22.8 million award to the estates of a couple killed when a tire repair failure caused a rollover accident.

The Jan. 11 jury verdict in a San Diego County Superior Court awarded $14,465,864 to the estate of Casey and Melanie Barber, who were killed in a July 2006 accident. The accident was caused by a failed tire repair, and caused the Barber’s Ford E350 Sportsmobile van to crash on Highway 98 near Page, Ariz.

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The San Diego couple sustained fatal injuries, and are survived by their three young sons, who were the plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

In addition to the jury verdict, the Barber estate received another $8.3 million settlement with other defendants.

The list of defendants included car dealer Mossy Ford, which performed the tire repair in August 2005. Plaintiffs’ counsel was able to show that Mossy Ford improperly failed to take the tire out of service and that this conduct caused the tire tread separation and led to the fatal rollover accident.

While the type of repair performed is not known, TIAs Kevin Rohlwing suggests that this case will be quite important to the tire industry and anyone who handles tires.

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“I believe this becomes the baseline for all future repair lawsuits,” said Rohlwing, TIA’s senior vice president of training. “Everytime a repaired tire fails and someone is injured or killed, that $22 million award will be front and center for the jury. It opens the floodgates and sets a new bar for these types of accidents. The risks associated with tire service are high enough to begin with thanks to the Ford/Firestone recalls and this case just makes it worse. If this trend continues, the cost of insurance will make it nearly impossible for most retailers to survive.”

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As a condition of the settlement, Mossy Ford agreed to immediately begin to follow industry guidelines regarding tire repair practices and to implement a training program to better train its technicians about safe tire repair practices to improve consumer safety.

Plaintiffs’ counsel Robert Buccola said, "Our goal was more than just obtaining a monetary recovery. Here, we were able to evoke real change and get the word out to other tire repair facilities of the importance of following tire repair rules to a tee."

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