Why does this company keep trying to supress? Can IKEA get away with this behavior? TAKATA Air Bags? Who is Goodyear and Why are they getting away with this coverup?
Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. received failure claims over a tire that was installed on thousands of RVs and is linked to at least nine deaths, dozens of injuries, and hundreds of crashes as early as 1996, the first year it was manufactured and installed on motorhomes, according to court documents obtained exclusively by Jalopnik. The documents also show that Goodyear appears to have vastly underreported the number of failure claims it had received over the tire to federal regulators during a previous inquiry more than a decade ago, and confirm the tire is almost certainly still on the road today.
The documents include a letter attorney David Kurtz, who is pursuing an ongoing case against Goodyear, sent to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration last summer, requesting the agency to look into failures related to the tire. It spells out what he’s learned over the last 15 years during a protracted legal battle with the company. He sharply portrays what he describes as an effort by Goodyear to cover up serious issues with the tire, the G159 275/70R 22.5. In previous interviews with Jalopnik, he described the G159 as “the worst tire made in history.”
In particular, the letter reveals for the first time that Goodyear received failure claims from the G159 as early as 1996—the year the tire was first installed on RVs—until as recently as September 2015, the last year for which Goodyear had disclosed data to Kurtz. The company said as recently as last June that the G159 is still on the road today, Kurtz wrote.
The 29-page letter—which you can read in full below—also says that in response to a 2006 inquiry from NHTSA, Goodyear disclosed only seven injuries from G159 failures, despite having received 74 death and injury claims at the time. Goodyear also represented to NHTSA at the time that it received only 58 failure reports over the G159, the letter says, even though it was aware of 458 crown separations.
It confirms previous reporting from Jalopnik, which has published stories on the G159 since an announcement earlier this year by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that it had opened a preliminary investigation into the tire. The probe focuses on tires manufactured by Goodyear between 1996 and 2003 that had been installed on thousands of motorhomes. The tire has been cited in at least 41 lawsuits filed against the company, which plaintiffs say wasn’t suitable for RVs, based on Goodyear’s own internal data and experts.
On Wednesday, a judge in Arizona, John Hannah, unsealed the letter—along with several hundred pages of documents—in response to a request from the Center for Auto Safety, a consumer advocate group based in Washington D.C. Jalopnik obtained a copy of Kurtz’s letter, along with more than 200 pages of records, from the Maricopa County Superior Court Clerk’s Office.
“Goodyear’s need to maintain the confidentiality of the information or materials produced pursuant to the protective order does not come close to outweighing the public’s need for access (through CAS) with respect to information that relates specifically to the G159 tire,” Hannah wrote.
“That information—primarily concerning the tire’s design, its testing, the decision to market it for use on motor homes, 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.”
Kurtz declined to comment on the ruling. Goodyear didn’t respond to a direct
request for comment but on Wednesday the company requested that Judge Hannah stop the publication of the letter by calling Jalopnik directly, according to Kurtz and the Center for Auto Safety’s counsel.
The judge held a hearing by phone with Kurtz, and attorneys representing the Center for Auto Safety and Goodyear, the Center’s counsel said. Judge Hannah, the attorneys said, held that he could not and would not make the call, saying that Jalopnik’s not a party to the litigation and therefore not bound by any protective order.
Afterward, Foster Robberson, an attorney representing Goodyear, sent Jalopnik a letter stating that the documents were released in error by the Maricopa County Superior Court clerk’s office, and asked “that you refrain from publishing those documents ... as they remain under seal by the Court.”
“As stated, that is, in fact, the current circumstance,” Robberson said. “Please be advised that if the sealed documents are published or otherwise distributed through you, Goodyear reserves all its rights to pursue remedies at law and in equity.”
When equipped on motorhomes—commonly used for travel on highways at speeds well above 65 mph—the G159s were prone to heat-induced failure, numerous lawsuits allege. NHTSA itself had received claims more than 15 years ago, but the agency said in its announcement of the preliminary investigation that data “produced in litigation was sealed under protective orders and confidential settlement agreements, precluding claimants from submitting it to NHTSA.”
It wasn’t until Kurtz obtained a court order last summer that NHTSA was finally given access to records the attorney obtained during his legal battle with Goodyear that has stretched on for more than a decade. Kurtz first filed suit against Goodyear in 2003 over an incident involving the Haeger family, whose 38-foot RV had G159 tires and crashed on an Arizona highway, after the vehicle’s right front tire blew out.
Kurtz’s court pleadings describe an exhaustive legal campaign from Goodyear that involved obtaining secret settlements that prohibited victims from sharing evidence with anyone—including other victims—which prevented an official finding of a safety risk with the tire from being found. In that time, Goodyear has been accused of destroying pertinent evidence that includes alleged admissions by an employee that it knew the G159 wasn’t safe for motorhomes.
Kurtz summarized his findings to NHTSA in the letter he sent July 10, 2017. Kurtz alleges he has evidence “that Goodyear’s CEO, Richard Kramer, was personally familiar with failures regarding the G159.”
The Center for Auto Safety’s executive director, Jason Levine, couldn’t comment directly on Kurtz’s letter. The group’s attorneys believed Judge Hannah’s order meant the documents in the case technically still remained sealed, pending a possible appeal from Goodyear.
Levine nonetheless said he was pleased by the judge’s decision.
“What you’re describing, in terms of the widespread use of the tires over dozens of manufacturers and that they remain on the road … is exactly why we want to see these documents public,” Levine said, after Jalopnik described the content of Kurtz’s letter by phone Tuesday. “You’ve got a defective tire used by many thousands of people on many different motorhomes and has led to what is reported to be hundreds of injuries and deaths combined.”
Goodyear’s official line has been that no safety defect exists when the G159 is equipped on motorhomes, despite its own records that point to a serious risk when the tire is used on RVs, and that it was initially designed for “pickup-and-delivery trucks in commercial service.” But Goodyear has argued the issues stem from user error—deflated tires, overloading the vehicle, hitting road debris.
Kurtz’s letter includes an expansive section that’s effectively designed to refute Goodyear’s argument.
In one passage, Kurtz cites the testimony of Goodyear’s court experts in a previous case the attorney filed against the company. Goodyear’s witness, Jim Gardner, testified that a tire like the G159, when properly pressurized and operating at 75 mph or more, would generate an internal temperature of 140-150 degrees Fahrenheit.
“Once a tire exceeds a temperature at 200 degrees F, most commercial medium truck tires will begin to experience degradation of material properties that can lead to tread separation,” Gardner said.
Kurtz found that Goodyear didn’t conduct high-speed tests of the G159 until “eight months after sales commenced,” the letter said.
“The first two tests were taken in August 1996,” he wrote. “Both tires tested failed the 75 mph leg of the test.”
The tests concluded with worrying results, according to the letter. RVs, of course, are used at highway speeds, and Goodyear’s test found the “G159 was developing temperatures well in excess of 250 degrees when tested” for high-speed use.
Goodyear’s own internal publications set forth a maximum 194 degree threshold for the tires to handle, but that was never disclosed to RV manufacturers that used the G159, Kurtz wrote.
And when RV makers Fleetwood and Monaco approached Goodyear about significant failures involving the G159, Goodyear never mentioned the internal test results, according to Kurtz’s letter. The company always pointed to user error as the reason for so many failures.
In correspondence with Fleetwood, for instance, Goodyear wrote: “Tire blowouts can be related to a number of facts, however the key ones being overload, under-inflation, vehicle speeds and road hazards.”
The argument suggests Goodyear believes the more than 700 property damage and casualty claims it received over the G159 were all due to user error.
But Fleetwood or Monaco also weren’t told of the number of failure claims Goodyear had received over the G159, Kurtz wrote.
“... Goodyear would not share with Monaco what it knew about the failures, death and injury claims that had been advanced as of that date,” the leter stated. “Similarly, it would not reveal to Monaco what it knew about the temperatures the G159 was generating from its own tests.”
As an example to rebut Goodyear’s user-error argument, Kurtz cited an incident involving Mark Salem, who owned a Fleetwood motorhome that had G159 tires.
Salem, Kurtz wrote, “is a certified master mechanic and ... he too experienced multiple G159 failures on various positions on his motorhome (one front, two rears over three trips).”
“His coach was weighed,” Kurtz continued. “There was no overload conditions, no left to right weight imbalance and the tires were properly pressurized for the load. Each claim submitted was denied. Goodyear claimed the failures were customer caused.”
Jalopnik previously reported that Goodyear received claims as far back as 1999, but Kurtz’s letter shows the company has disclosed it received notices of G159 failures starting in 1996, the first year it was manufactured and installed on motorhomes.
The claims, Kurtz wrote, show the G159 failed “in all positions on the motorhome (front, rear inner, rear outer).”
“Almost universally all of the failures occur at highway speeds,” he wrote.
The letter also revealed for the first time how many manufacturers utilized the G159. Goodyear’s disclosures, Kurtz wrote, “reveals G159 failures in what appears to be 17 different motorhome manufacturers and 39 separate motorhome models commencing July 1996 and continuing through September 2015.”
For context, Kurtz points to the failure rate of the defective Firestone tires that ensnared Ford in a nationwide scandal nearly two decades ago. Court filings suggest the G159's failure rate is anywhere from 10 to 27 times worse than the Firestone tires deemed defective by NHTSA. Goodyear employees themselves can’t identify any tire made by the company that comes close to the G159's failure rate, Kurtz wrote in the letter.
“Goodyear admits it cannot identify a single Goodyear tire with death or injury claims that approach those revealed by the G159 on an equivalent production basis,” the letter stated.
Kurtz’s efforts found that Goodyear has received at least 98 injury/death claims in total over the tire. Those types of claims were of interest in 2006 to NHTSA, which at the time was conducting an engineering analysis over front tire failures that occurred in motorhomes made by Country Coach with Toyo-manufactured tires.
To compare, NHTSA’s office of defect investigations sent Goodyear what’s known as a peer request to:
Determine the approximate “failure rates” due to tire blowout, tread separation, abrupt loss of air, and the like, for front tires manufactured and sold by Goodyear and installed on Class A motorhomes; and to determine the approximate comparative failure rate due to tire blowout, tread separation, abrupt loss of air and the like, for equivalent tires manufactured and sold by Goodyear and installed in other (non-model) motorhome vehicle applications.
NHTSA, Kurtz wrote in the letter, “made clear the scope of its inquiry regarding ‘failure reports’ with an expressed definition.” That was to include “reports from all sources,” including but not limited to warranty claims, and owner, dealer or manufacturer complaints. Failure reports, NHTSA said, should include “reports of tire failures that Goodyear has determined in its normal and reasonable investigation” of warranty claims, complaints, and reports that were caused by normal wear, misuse or abuse.
NHTSA’s communication, according to Kurtz, “made clear that failure to truthfully respond would subject Goodyear to civil penalties pursuant to 49 U.S.C. Section 30165.” NHTSA has said that some of the claims weren’t required to be reported under federal law, but the discrepancy between what Goodyear knew and what it disclosed is vast, according to Kurtz’s letter.
Among the tires NHTSA was interested in learning about was the G159 tire cited in numerous lawsuits at the time. At the time, Goodyear was aware of 74 death and injury claims, Kurtz wrote, “and it was defending, unknown to NHTSA, dozens of suits across the nation.”
Nevertheless, Goodyear only disclosed seven injuries from G159 failures to NHTSA, according to the letter. The manufacturer was aware of 453 crown separations and hundreds of property damage claims, but in total, Goodyear disclosed to NHTSA only 58 failure reports, the letter said.
“Obviously,” Kurtz wrote, “NHTSA needs to assess the accuracy of Goodyear’s disclosures in light of the data now available.”
Kurtz’s letter is a dense one that reads like an indictment of Goodyear, capturing how long the company’s alleged scheme to prevent the public from understanding the G159's problems has gone on. For years, the attorney fought Goodyear to turn over relevant property damage and injury and death claims, as well as testing data on the tire. Over time, he has accumulated more than 400,000 pages of documents and has filed more than 1,000 court pleadings.
“Handling this investigation over the last 14 years has caused tremendous personal sacrifice and financial loss for my family,” he wrote.
Kurtz said in the letter that he’s pleased NHTSA is taking up the investigation.
“It has been a long road to receiving judicial consent to share with NHTSA that which I have discovered,” he wrote. “My wife and I have spent years wondering how many more people will get hurt. We had the same discussion a few weeks ago following Goodyear’s acknowledgment in the public courtroom that the G159 is still on the road in 2017. I had no personal doubt that is true.”
Judge Hannah, in his opinion issued Wednesday that unsealed some of the documents, echoed some of Kurtz’s longstanding points about Goodyear’s conduct in handling G159 cases. Goodyear, Hannah wrote, relied on the protective orders it secured in the dozens of G159 cases to prevent “plaintiffs from communicating or sharing information among themselves,” selectively picking what testing data to reveal in certain cases. (A federal judge previously sanctioned Goodyear attorneys involved G159 cases for concealing “relevant documents” and making “misleading and false in-court statements,” according to the opinion.)
“Thus Goodyear could control the information available to each plaintiff,” Hannah wrote.
“Protective orders are meant to allow litigants to maintain the confidentiality of trade secrets and confidential business information,” Hannah said. “Goodyear appears to have been abusing that privilege in the G159 cases. Goodyear arguably used protective orders dishonestly to gain an unwarranted advantage in litigation and to avoid tort liability.”
He went on: “Even in the last stage of this case, after years of litigation over its practices concerning protective orders, Goodyear tried to use the Protective Order improperly for litigation advantage.”
It’s unclear if Goodyear plans to appeal Hannah’s order. A separate federal case filed by Kurtz remains pending. For NHTSA’s part, the agency asked Goodyear on Tuesday for more information on the G159, as well as tires that were used to replace the G159.
The company must respond to NHTSA’s request by May 4.
It’s nice when a court finally has enough and unseals litigation documents. Businesses use protective orders all the time to shield their misconduct from the public and to prevent attorneys from re-using damning information in subsequent lawsuits. Then, when attorneys ask for the same documents in the next lawsuit they refuse to produce it. Their MO is obstruct-obstruct-obstruct unless there’s a court order requiring them to produce documents (and even then, they obstruct some more).
At some point, I hope people get fed up with businesses constantly screwing everyone over and demand change. In the meantime, all we can hope is that judges stop buying all this b.s., stop entering ridiculously-restrictive protective orders, and start viewing evil businesses with just a little bit of reasonable skepticism.
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Goodyear Knew Of Dangerous RV Tire Failures For Over 20 Years: Court Docs
They Destroy And Lobby Our Lawmakers To Destroy People Who Want To Save Lives
Filed to: jalopnik investigates
In October 2003, Billy Wayne Woods and his family packed into a luxury $181,000 motorhome for a fun getaway to Florida. Call it a textbook American vacation: their destination was Disney World, and with his wife, Shirley, his son and daughter-in law and two grandchildren in tow, the trip would surely be one to remember. But on the return home for the Alabama family, the vacation took an abrupt turn for disaster.
Somewhere along I-75 in Georgia, the treads came off the left front Goodyear tire of their Monaco Coach RV. Woods tried to keep the RV under control, according to a lawsuit filed by his family, but it crossed over the median and slammed into an embankment. The nearly 40-foot-long vehicle then hit a direction sign, slid across the entranceway for a rest area, and struck a second embankment, before finally coming to a stop.
Both Woods’ wife and his daughter-in-law suffered broken backs; his son, a broken hip. His two grandchildren were uninjured, but the crash left Woods paralyzed. Several months later, he died as a result of complications from his injuries, according to the family’s lawyer.
“The underlying story is what tragedies are made of,” said Rick Morrison, an attorney who represented the Woods family in the lawsuit—just one lawsuit of many in a decades-long web of cases that accuse Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. of aggressively covering up a deadly defect that’s responsible for at least nine deaths.
The tire that burst was a Goodyear G159. It was a tire that was designed for lower-speed delivery vehicles and, according to the suits, shouldn’t have been equipped on RVs at all; a tire that lawyers and victims say is responsible for scores of crashes over the past two decades.
It should have been recalled or fixed, they say, but it never was thanks to an exhaustive legal campaign by Goodyear that kept plaintiffs from knowing the details of just how bad the G159 really was.
In a lawsuit filed later against Goodyear, the Woods family accused the company of selling a defective tire that had been marketed to recreational motorhome makers, even though it knew the G159 couldn’t handle highway speeds when equipped on an RV.
The Woods’ case is just one of at least 41 lawsuits filed over the last two decades against the tire company that pertain to the G159.
The suits—nearly all of which were eventually settled—accuse the company of selling a tire to RV manufacturers that, based on Goodyear’s own internal data and experts, wasn’t suitable for motorhomes. (The manufacturers, it later turned out, were seemingly as clueless about the risks of the tires as customers.)
The tire was designed “specifically” for regional delivery vehicles that, company records disclosed in court show, should travel no more than 65 mph. But Goodyear made at least 40,000 that were installed on motorhomes produced between 1996 and 2003.
“You cannot debate the defective nature of the G159,” Kurtz told Jalopnik. “There’s nothing to discuss. It is the worst-performing tire ever made.”
When equipped on motorhomes—commonly used for travel on highways at speeds well above 65 mph—the tires were prone to heat-induced failure, the lawsuits allege, and as early as 1999, RV owners across the U.S. reported accidents due to tread separations and blow-outs with G159 tires.
An investigation by Jalopnik found at least nine deaths and 34 injuries are linked to crashes involving the G159 from 2002 to 2009. Those numbers are almost certainly higher in reality: in court, Goodyear admitted it has received at least 98 injury and/or death claims over the tire.
Jalopnik reviewed hundreds of state and federal court filings and tabulated for the first time the number of known fatalities linked to G159 blowouts and tread separations. Goodyear’s extensive history with the tire has never received attention from mainstream news outlets, outside of a story by the Arizona Republic in 2015.
Despite the accidents and the litany of lawsuits—including one that eventually went up to the U.S. Supreme Court—the G159 was made until 2003, when Goodyear stopped production of the tire. Some deaths and injuries weren’t even reported to federal safety officials, and no recall has ever been ordered.
Part of that has to do with Goodyear’s aggressive effort to settle cases, handled by company attorneys who withheld crucial data from plaintiffs, according to a federal judge’s ruling. In each case, judges signed off on protective orders that allowed Goodyear to designate crucial documents, testimony and internal data as “confidential,” and the decisions meant victims of G159 tire failures couldn’t disclose any of that information to other victims with similar claims or regulators.
And by getting settlements, complaints and claim data sealed, America’s auto safety regulator says it was prevented from launching an investigation that could’ve prompted a recall—until now.
In a filing posted Jan. 1, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said it was examining whether the G159 failed because it was put to use on a motorhome, which it was never designed to do.
By getting settlements, complaints and claim data sealed, America’s auto safety regulator says it was prevented from launching an investigation that could’ve prompted a recall—until now.
The agency added that data “produced in litigation was sealed under protective orders and confidential settlement agreements, precluding claimants from submitting it to NHTSA.” The probe covers about 40,000 tires from 1996 to 2003, which is estimated to be the total number of G159s installed on motorhomes. About 160,000 G159 tires were made during that time period, court records show. (A spokesperson for NHTSA said “the agency doesn’t comment on open investigations.”)
Taken together, the lawsuits and court filings lay out an effort by Goodyear that allowed the company to keep a lid on evidence for nearly 20 years of the tire’s deadly misuse. Goodyear knew the strategy, one suit alleged, “would cause future deaths and injuries from G159 tread separations.”
Goodyear declined to respond to a list of questions sent by Jalopnik and didn’t make someone available for an interview.
“The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has opened a Preliminary Evaluation concerning G159 tires produced between 1996-2003 and used on Class A motorhomes,” Goodyear said in a statement. “The Preliminary Evaluation was opened to look at data released to NHTSA under a Court Order issued in pending litigation. Goodyear will cooperate fully with NHTSA in its investigation, but we cannot comment further due to the pending litigation.”
In court filings, Goodyear denies there was any problem with using the G159 on motorhomes and the company downplays the significance of its own records and experts in court that points to a serious risk with using the tires on RVs. It’s not an issue of heat, Goodyear counters, it’s user error—deflated tires, an RV that’s overloaded, hitting road debris.
“A lot of time people didn’t maintain them with enough inflation pressure,” a Goodyear spokesperson said of the G159 back in 2007. The company recently argued that “no finding of a public safety risk” over the tire “has even been made, in this or any other court” and that it’s up to NHTSA, now with the necessary documents in hand, to make that determination.
But compared to defective products from some of the biggest auto scandals in history, the G159's failure rate is astonishing and “unheard of for consumer products,” as one court filing put it. It even eclipses the defective Firestone tires that ensnared Ford in a nationwide scandal some 20 years ago.
Court filings suggest the G159'S failure rate is anywhere from 10 to 27 times worse than the Firestone tires deemed defective by NHTSA. (Goodyear employees themselves said in depositions that they can’t identify “any” tire made by the company that comes close to the failure rate of the G159 described in court.)
In a Jan. 8 court filing, David Kurtz, an attorney who’s embroiled in an ongoing legal battle with Goodyear over the tire, estimated its reported rate “means that 1 out of 10 motorhomes using the G159 experienced a failure resulting in a claim for property damage, injury or death.”
“You cannot debate the defective nature of the G159,” Kurtz told Jalopnik. “There’s nothing to discuss.” His opinion’s clear: “I believe it to be the worst tire made in history.”
The crash scene involving the Haeger family, whose RV had Goodyear G159 tires. Photo provided by David Kurtz
Federal complaints filed on the G159 show drivers have reported experiencing blowouts as far back as 1999. A motorist directly told Goodyear in 2001 about the safety of the tires, after two G159s on their Winnebago fell apart, including one that had only been used for 5,000 miles. The G159's initial tread life is designed to last at least 60,000 miles, records show.
“I feel fortunate that the first two failures occurred on a rear dual position,” the driver wrote in the letter to Goodyear that was forwarded to NHTSA, “if the same failure should occur on a front tire, a total loss of control would be a concern.”
Two years later, that’s what happened to the Haeger family—and if you’re wondering why NHTSA has taken nearly 20 years to investigate the safety of the G159, their case is a helpful starting point.
In June 2003, the Haegers were traveling in the family’s 38-foot motorhome along Interstate 25 in New Mexico at posted highway speeds when, suddenly, the right front tire blew out.
“These guys, their whole mantra is to wear you out financially,” Kurtz said. “That is their game. They will outlast you.”
At the wheel was 70-year-old LeRoy Haeger, who was unable to control the vehicle. The RV swerved to the right, off the freeway, over an embankment, before skidding along its side and coming to a stop.
In the back of the motorhome were Donna and Suzanne Haeger. Both ended up buried under debris, unable to escape, according to the Haeger complaint. Donna Haeger had multiple fractures—wrist, jaw, ankle, toes—and spent two months homebound in a wheel chair with her jaws wired shut. She suffered permanent facial nerve damage and has trouble eating.
Suzanne Haeger suffered head trauma and lost 60 percent of her left arm’s function, the suit said. The family’s Great Dane flew through the windshield, but ended up with only minor injuries. (The Haegers aren’t open to being interviewed by reporters, Kurtz said.)
According to the complaint, LeRoy Haeger was trapped between the steering wheel and the seat, and his right leg nearly torn apart below the knee. He also suffered a dislocated elbow and abdominal injuries. After 17 surgeries, he still dealt with chronic pain; in 2008, he passed away from cancer.
Kurtz represented the family in a 2005 lawsuit filed against Goodyear, the start of a legal battle that has lasted more than a decade and has expanded in ways the attorney couldn’t have imagined at first.
“It’s the most outrageous piece of corporate misconduct I’ve seen in 35 years,” Kurtz told Jalopnik.
In response to the Haeger suit, Goodyear contended that Leroy Haeger was to blame for slamming on the vehicle’s brakes after the tire blew. Similar to other publicly known G159 cases, the company has said the issue with the tire had to do with overloading motorhomes, under-inflation, or simply driver error.
Kurtz requested safety tests on the tire from the outset of the case, but Goodyear lawyers vehemently objected by claiming the inquiries were too broad, until the judge in the case ordered it to respond. Court records show the tires were designed to handle a sustained temperature of 194 degrees Fahrenheit when traveling at highway speeds between 65-75 mph. In excess of 200 degrees, the tire ran the risk of tread separations.
But years into the case, Kurtz still hadn’t received test data to show the G159 reached more than 200 degrees when used at highway speeds. Goodyear only turned over some data, but not the highway speed data that he requested, Kurtz said.
Without any evidence otherwise, the family accepted a confidential settlement in 2010. “These guys, their whole mantra is to wear you out financially,” Kurtz said. “That is their game. They will outlast you.”
At the time the case was filed, tire failures were being frequently cited in RV lawsuits, including the G159. Goodyear said it was a sound product.
“We never really had a problem with that tire,” Dave Wilkins, then-spokesperson for Goodyear, told Lawyers Weekly USA in 2007.
“Most of the situations that came up were application problems. They were put on RVs, but [the RVs] were overloaded,” or owners didn’t inflate them properly.
But Robert Ammons, an attorney representing a plaintiff in a tire case unrelated to the G159, said RVs present a risk because they’re infrequently used, meaning the tires are older.
“The tire will pass inspection because the tread depth is fine, but it’s being run during the summer during high ambient temperatures,” Ammons told Lawyers Weekly USA. “It may be five or six years old, and it’s not really designed for the application for which it’s being used. He added, “Those factors combined are simply a recipe for disaster.”
But after the Haeger settlement, Kurtz learned there was indeed more to his theory that Goodyear knew the G159 should’ve never been used on RVs in the first place.
The blog post that tipped Kurtz off. Photo: safetyresearch.net
One day in 2010, he came across a blog post that highlighted a similar case out of Florida involving the Goodyear tire in question. In the summer of 2010, the only trial over a G159 case ever occurred for a case filed by the Schalmo family. The tread of the right front tire to their motorhome separated and, similar to the Haegers, ended with a serious crash. The Schalmos won a $5.6 million verdict.
But unlike the Haegers, the Schalmo family forced Goodyear to turn over test data that Kurtz had never seen. Due to the settlement, Kurtz couldn’t reopen the Haegers’ case, so he sought sanctions against Goodyear’s attorneys for hiding evidence, kicking off another legal battle that continues today.
After wrangling with Goodyear in court, the company finally handed over test data revealed in the Schalmo case, which portrayed the G159 in an entirely new light: as it turned out, Goodyear’s own test data showed the tires ran at temperatures as high as 229 degrees, far beyond their capacity.
“Goodyear admitted that exposure to prolonged temperatures greater than 200° F can lead to separation of the tire’s 25 structure,” Kurtz wrote in a 2015 court filing, summarizing Goodyear’s previous testimony. “Exposure above 250° F threatens the capability of the tire to stay together much longer.”
Two Goodyear experts previously testified that the G159, when properly pressurized, should run at 140-150 degrees Fahrenheit when traveling at 75 mph, Kurtz’s filing noted. (Perhaps surprisingly, Goodyear later argued these tests weren’t important, despite its own internal documents, a hired expert, and its own witness saying otherwise.)
Goodyear’s legal strategy started to make more sense to Kurtz: the company’s attorneys would turn over evidence in one G159 case, convince a judge to issue a protective order barring plaintiffs from sharing documents with other attorneys in similar cases, and then secure a confidential settlement, preventing anyone in the case from speaking out. That’s why some evidence would show up in one case, but not another.
Goodyear, for its part, has offered a convoluted argument in court on why this transpired. In court filings, the company appears to say it determined what documents to produce on a case-by-case basis, depending on the language of requests by plaintiffs. Last year, the company asserted that it never directed the “concealment or withholding of the heat rise tests, or any documentation.”
Illustrating the complexity of the situation, NHTSA says that federal law didn’t require Goodyear, one of the largest tire manufacturers in the world, to report some of the claims to regulators. Goodyear reported only nine incidents to the agency involving the G159, the filing says, which included one death and 13 injuries—far short of the publicly-known total that’s linked to the tire.
But Judge Roslyn Silver, the federal judge overseeing the Haeger case in federal court, thought Goodyear’s intentions were obvious.
Judge Roslyn Silver. Photo: Screengrab via YouTube
“From the very beginning, [Goodyear and its attorneys] adopted a plan of making discovery as difficult as possible, providing only those documents they wished to provide, timing the production of the small subset of documents they were willing to turn over such that it was inordinately difficult for Plaintiffs to manage their case, and making false statements to the Court in an attempt to hide their behavior,” Silver wrote in an order.
“In the end, that plan succeeded in making this case far more complicated than necessary, requiring an absurd expenditure of resources by Plaintiffs and the Court.”
Silver awarded the Haegers $2.7 million in legal fees, a figure Goodyear appealed up to the U.S. Supreme Court. (Last April, the high court punted the case back to a lower court to reconsider the total amount of the financial penalty, and it remains pending.)
In 2013, Kurtz launched a second court battle on behalf of the Haegers against Goodyear in Arizona state court, where he started peeling back just how much the company knew about issues with the tire.
Goodyear internal data on the G159. Photo via Arizona County Superior Court
According to filings in that case, Goodyear’s internal data shows it has received nearly 3,500 warranty returns for the G159, more than 600 property damage claims not tied to litigation, and 41 lawsuits arising out of G159 failures. The company also identified at least 98 death or injury claims.
In court filings, Kurtz included statistics from the August 2000 Firestone tire recall for comparison. The industry typically measures failure claim rates in a “parts per million” basis, court filings show, and Goodyear testified the accepted average is 3.4 ppm.
The recalled defective Firestone tires had an average tread separation claim of 270.6 ppm, records show. If only half of Goodyear’s 730 property damage and injury claims from the G159 happened because of tread separations, Kurtz wrote, “the G159 claim rate equals 2,270 ppm.” That’s about ten times worse than the Firestone tires NHTSA deemed defective, and, as one filing put it, “Such failure rates are unheard of for consumer products.”
It wasn’t until last summer that Kurtz finally secured a court order that allowed him to send certain documents to NHTSA for review and consideration of a possible probe.
“There’s no doubt this tire was defective and Goodyear should’ve pulled it years ago,” Kurtz said.
Now, after 20 years of quietly being fought over in court, a more complete picture of Goodyear’s knowledge of the G159 tire has come into focus.
Here’s what’s clear: starting in 1996, Goodyear commenced manufacturing of the G159, which it later said was “designed for pickup-and-delivery trucks in commercial service.” The tire also fit motorhomes, so it was used for those recreational applications, too. Over an eight-year period, the company made 160,683 G159s, but it started receiving alarming reports about tread separations almost from the moment they were installed on RVs, according to internal memos cited in court.
“GOODYEAR DENIED ANY RESPONSIBILITIES,” a driver later wrote in their complaint to NHTSA.
When the tire was first made in early 1996, the G159 was speed-rated at 65 mph max. Shortly after, however, some states increased their speed limits to 75 mph.
By June 1998, Goodyear responded by increasing the G159s rating to 75 mph, even though its own data “revealed that that if Goodyear approved an increase in the speed rating of the tire to 75 mph, the tire would generate temperatures well beyond the design capacity of the tire, producing predictable tread separations, with resultant death and injury,” the Haegers say in one court filing. It was a turning point, to say the least.
That October, Goodyear representatives met with Fleetwood RV owners at a rally in Louisiana. The company was advised about numerous tread separations and learned that some owners drive their motorhomes up to 85 mph, according to an internal memo. Overall, there was a “strong concern” about blowouts and tread separations, the memo said.
Problems persisted to a point that Fleetwood felt compelled that summer to issue a recall for some of its RVs equipped with G159s. But the issue they cited had nothing to do with the misapplication of the G159 on motorhomes; rather it pinned blame on disproportionate front axle weight distribution, cargo and improper tire pressure—or, put simply, user error. (Fleetwood didn’t respond to a request for comment.)
Still, crashes continued to rack up. In a four-day span during August 2000, one vehicle owner reported experiencing two tire blow-outs; the second incident sent the vehicle flying into oncoming traffic. Thankfully, there was no accident or injuries reported. But two blowouts in such a short span caused enough alarm to prompt the driver to notify NHTSA.
“GOODYEAR DENIED ANY RESPONSIBILITIES,” the driver later wrote in their complaint to NHTSA.
In the latter half of 2000, Goodyear released what it called its “first-ever radial tire specifically designed for recreational use.” A press release announcing the product couldn’t have been more clear.
“Until the release of the G670 RV, recreational vehicle owners seeking a Goodyear tire usually purchased the G159,” the release said. “A solid performing tire, the G159 was designed for pickup-and-delivery trucks in commercial service.”
Years after the G159 was used on RVs, Goodyear announced a new tire “specifically designed for recreational vehicles” and stated the G159 was made for delivery trucks. Photo: PACER
Whether or not the explicit announcement played a role, three months later, in May 2000, Fleetwood told Goodyear it was going to switch to Michelin tires because of the reported problems with the G159. Goodyear wasn’t pleased, according to evidence disclosed in court.
When motorhome maker Monaco started asking similar questions that same year, Goodyear had an almost identical explanation for the issues. (Monaco didn’t respond to a request for comment.)
“At no time did Goodyear disclose to either Fleetwood or Monaco the test results it possessed which revealed heat generated by the G159 at highway speeds was far in excess of 194° Fahrenheit,” the Haegers wrote in their complaint. “Rather, Goodyear actively concealed its test data from these two motorhome manufacturers.”
The G159 story has parallels to the massive Ford/Firestone scandal of the early aughts. Similar to Goodyear, both Firestone and Ford executives “fought allegations of tire defects and SUV rollover propensities in private lawsuits, many of which were settled and the documents sealed,” The Washington Post reported at the time.
With NHTSA looking into it, now Goodyear might face regulatory scrutiny that attorneys like Kurtz and Morrison sought years ago. Safety groups like the Center for Auto Safety are also wading in by trying to pry loose documents that Goodyear successfully sealed years ago.
“The numbers are staggering,” Jason Levine, the Center’s executive director, told Jalopnik. “There’s really no other way to describe it.”
Jennifer Bennett, a staff attorney at Public Justice, a nonprofit legal advocacy group who’s representing the Center in its motion to unseal records, said it’s common in cases involving an alleged defect for people to not learn about it for years “because of protective orders that’ve been inserted in lawsuits.”
The Center for Auto Safety called for the release of documents related to the G159 in early January.
“This case is sort of that on steroids,” she said.
Goodyear has fought the request, arguing it should be left up to NHTSA to decide whether there’s a defect and that unsealing documents would violate the protective order in the case.
As for NHTSA, when Kurtz secured a court order in the Haeger case to send the agency documents for review, he hoped it would initiate a timeliness query, a sort of expedited investigation it has deployed in the past for situations like the GM ignition switch scandal. NHTSA declined, and instead opted to launch a regular probe.
Still, Kurtz is hopeful. NHTSA couldn’t operate without the necessary G159 data in hand. Now, he says, it can move forward.
“I’m optimistic quite honestly that NHTSA will divulge this stuff to the American public because they are the sole gatekeeper of that truth,” he said. “Their mission is to protect us. They can’t fulfill it without disclosure. I think they will.”
Call it a dark twist of irony, but, 15 years after he first approached Goodyear about the significant crash involving the Haeger family, Goodyear’s still requesting NHTSA to keep certain documents it wants deemed confidential. It’s common for companies to issue confidentiality requests during investigations like this.
The problem? Some of the documents Goodyear’s referencing have been public for years.
“I believe this public information, which is otherwise buried in hundreds of judicial filings should be part of any public filing by NHTSA related to any investigation as it directly relates to a defect determination and Goodyear’s failure to comply with applicable law,” Kurtz wrote in a Dec. 29 letter to the agency.
Kurtz also told Jalopnik he requested NHTSA to refer the case to the U.S. Department of Justice for a possible criminal investigation.
What makes the entire situation so peculiar is how long this issue has festered quietly in courts for so long without any significant regulatory action being taken. Despite the sprawling legal battles, RV forum discussions, publicity, a U.S. Supreme Court case, the G159 is still on the road today.
Here’s one driver who bought a motorhome in 2012 with G159s. NHTSA’s most recent complainant on file relays “three separate incidents” with the tire in 2010 “where the sidewalls blow out.” The G159 is readily available to buy online, if you know where to look.
But Kurtz speaks like the weight of the world’s been lifted off him, now that an investigation’s finally underway. He just wants the world to know about the tire and get them off the road.
“It’s astonishing to me, but Goodyear has done a very effective job of suppressing the truth,” he said. “You can’t have an outraged audience unless it’s an informed audience. And Goodyear’s made damn sure they’re not informed.”
In 1971 J. Standard Baker Quoted " Drivers Towing Trailers Are Four (4) Times As Unsafe As Those In Cars Alone!
Stunning Report....Unsealed Court Unsealed Court Docs: Goodyear Knew About Fatal RV Tire Failures for 20 Years; Feds Seeking Additional Records From Company
The Federal Government knows about the deaths of 26,898 and counting by "Passenger Vehicles That Tow Trailers since 1975! and they do nothing but destroy our cause.
Since 1988 Over 1,000,000 injured with missing legs, eyes, arms, fingers and other broken body parts.
This Lawyer has never given up because he knows how the powerful lobby groups and companies operates.
Click below and see our evidence.....and ask the same question.........Why is the Utility Trailer Company's and Industry also using the same business model that Goodyear has just been exposed?
Congressman Cantor knew.....they all knew and they forced us into bankrupt in order to teach us a lesson and to give up.
Well it did not work.
This topic contains 2 replies, has 3 voices, and was last updated by [Try2Relax] Try2Relax 18 hours, 23 minutes ago.
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April 5, 2018 at 8:13 am #126656
[John E Davies]
John E Davies
This article is a condemnation of a greedy and immoral company that spent decades hiding data and even destroying evidence. Goodyear’s “court sealed” tire failure information has been released and their lawyers are frantically trying to prevent the data from being published. Note, this story is specific to the big 22.5 inch commercial truck tires used in large motorhomes.
“Almost universally all of the failures occur at highway speeds,” he wrote.
The letter also revealed for the first time how many manufacturers utilized the G159. Goodyear’s disclosures, Kurtz wrote, “reveals G159 failures in what appears to be 17 different motorhome manufacturers and 39 separate motorhome models commencing July 1996 and continuing through September 2015.”
For context, Kurtz points to the failure rate of the defective Firestone tires that ensnared Ford in a nationwide scandal nearly two decades ago. Court filings suggest the G159’s failure rate is anywhere from 10 to 27 times worse than the Firestone tires deemed defective by NHTSA. Goodyear employees themselves can’t identify any tire made by the company that comes close to the G159’s failure rate, Kurtz wrote in the letter.
I had a set of Goodyear car tires once and was not terribly impressed. Now there is a seriously valid reason to never buy ANY of their (tire) products in the future.
Also, how many of these injuries and deaths would have been avoided if there has been Tire Pressure Monitoring Systems in the affected RVs? Most of them? Makes you think….
The article also reinforces my natural aversion to travelling on Interstates where the heavy trucks are driving 70 or even 75 mph. I will stick to slower roads whenever possible, since my normal towing speed is 60.
"Mouse": 2017 Legacy Elite II Two Beds, Hull Number 218, Anderson hitch (center frame rail). Natures Head. Santa Cruz shotgun rack. Garmin Backup camera. TireTraker TPMS. N0-weld fresh water dip tube. Relocated surge suppressor remote. Stone Stomper. Subframe rock skirts. Rear mud flaps.
2013 Toyota Land Cruiser 200 5.7L, 33 inch LT tires, Tekonsha P3 - mostly stock, still figuring things out
Gone: 2006 Ram 3500 QCSB 4wd, Cummins 5.9L
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[KLB916] KLB916, [ShallowGal] ShallowGal
April 5, 2018 at 9:57 am #126683
[Mike and Carol]
Mike and Carol
My 2016 Ram 1500 came with Goodyear’s. I replaced them after a year with Michelin Defenders. I thought I’d be putting Michelins on the trailer when my BF Goodrich tires wear out, but they’ve been a pretty good tire, so we’ll see.
I agree that slower speeds and a good TPMS significantly increase the safety margin. Mike
Mike and Carol Thompson | Fair Oaks Ranch, TX
The Lone Star Oliver #135 | 2016 Ram Lone Star Crew Cab 4X4 5.7L Hemi
April 6, 2018 at 6:03 am #126803
On the other side of it, everyone was outraged that Volkswagen defeated the emissions, until they weren’t anymore, when now it’s been found almost all of them have done it. Does your vehicle have a Takata airbag, that was hidden, until it wasn’t. Do you shop at Macy’s, Home Depot, Target? All hidden breaches they didn’t want to get out.
To kid yourself into thinking another manufacturer isn’t hiding what they don’t want to get out too, is just kidding yourself.
Any manufacturer that settles anything with an NDA is hiding something, the rest of us should know.
The fact that it was “court sealed” should be more alarming, they should be the last line of defense in the world of deeming something relevant to public safety.
I agree, slow down and stay safe.
One Life Live It Enjoyably
2017 F350 6.7L SRW CC LB
2015 Oliver Elite II Hull #69
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US agency looking into allegations Goodyear tires killed or injured 95 peopleUpdated Apr 5; Posted Apr 5
By Benjamin Raven
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports it has received claims that defective Goodyear tires have caused incidents that have either killed or injured 95 people.
The NHTSA writes in a letter to Goodyear dated Tuesday, April 3 that it has received allegations that the 95 deaths and or injuries have occurred over the past 20 years.
The Center for Auto Safety and Public Justice reports in a news release that an Arizona judge ruled Wednesday that Goodyear could not keep court documents concerning the alleged defect sealed. The group alleges that Goodyear did everything it could to keep the defective tires a secret by fighting claims and getting judges to seal related documents.
"The ruling comes in Haeger v. Goodyear, a case alleging that the company not only sold defective tires, but knew about the defect, intentionally concealed it, and lied to the public--and the court--for years in an effort to keep it secret," the Center for Auto Safety reports in a release.
"The case settled last year, but thousands of documents regarding the alleged defect--and Goodyear's efforts to cover it up--remained secret."
Jalopnik reported on Wednesday, April 4 that Foster Robberson, an attorney representing Goodyear, warned the company that the documents were unsealed in an error and asked the outlet to "refrain from publishing those documents."
Tires alleged to have the defect are Goodyear's G159 tires, and includes 40,000 tires made for recreational vehicles from 1996 to 2003. The Associated Press reports that lawsuits and other safety advocates believe the tires were designed for delivery trucks and not RVs at highway speeds.
Maricopa County Judge John R. Hannah Jr. ruled on Tuesday that, "Goodyear's need to maintain the confidentiality of the information or materials produced pursuant to the protective order does not come close to outweighing the public's need for access" to the information.
In the court's ruling, Hannah writes that the information and the tire's design, its testing and the decision to market it for recreational vehicles should be made public.
A.P. reports Akron, Ohio-based Goodyear confirmed it received the NHTSA's letter, and said it would fully cooperate with the U.S. agency's investigation. In its letter, the agency claims Goodyear only reported nine claims alleging one death and 13 injuries but added that many of the claims were not required to be reported.
"NHTSA has received allegations stating that defects in the subject tires caused crashes resulting in 2 death or injury claims in 1998, 4 death or injury claims in 1999, 6 death or injury claims in 2000, 8 death or injury claims in 2001, 18 death or injury claims in 2002 and 57 death or injury claims from 2003 through 2015," the agency writes in its letter.
"Goodyear's response to this letter, in duplicate, together with a copy of any confidentiality request, must be submitted to this office by May 4, 2018."
A.P. reports the investigation started back on Dec. 28, 2017 when the NHTSA obtained unsealed documents from the court order. Even with all of this, Goodyear's G159 tires have not yet been recalled.
The NHTSA has also asked the company how it analyzes injury claims and how it detects any potential defects with its tires.
Goodyear Denies Allegations That RV Tire Is Defective
And we say bullshit.
Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. has reportedly denied allegations of a defect in RV tires which are being investigated by federal regulators. The company’s tires have been linked to scores of accidents that have left at least nine people dead and dozens injured.
[Article preview thumbnail]
Goodyear Knew Of Dangerous RV Tire Failures For Over 20 Years: Court Docs
Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. received failure claims over a tire that was installed on thousands…
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has been looking into claims for months that a certain Goodyear tire—the G159 275/70R 22.5—was prone to heat-induced failures when used on motorhomes. The agency sent a letter this week requesting information over G159 failures that were reported over nearly 20 years.
On Wednesday, Jalopnik reported that NHTSA has evidence of failure claims made as far back at 1996—the first year the tire went into production and was used on RVs—and as recently as 2015. The agency’s probe covers 40,000 G159 tires made between 1996 and 2003. A previous investigation by Jalopnik reported that Goodyear faced at least 41 lawsuits over the G159, settling nearly every dispute with protective orders that prevented victims from sharing information with other plaintiffs or even regulators.
Goodyear told the Wall Street Journal in a statement Thursday that it’s “fully cooperating” with regulators and that it followed industry standards for G159 tires that are subject to NHTSA’s probe.
“We continue to believe that there is no safety defect,” the company told the Journal.
NHTSA’s letter asks Goodyear for specific information that outlines what the company knew about G159 performance issues and when. It was sent to Goodyear a day before an Arizona state court judge, John Hannah, unsealed several documents in a case last year that pertains to the G159.
Judge Hannah vacated a protective order in the case following a request from the Center for Auto Safety Group, an industry watchdog.
“That information—primarily concerning the tire’s design, its testing, the decision to market it for use on motor homes, 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,” Hannah wrote.
The documents include a 29-page letter sent last year by attorney David Kurtz, who represents the plaintiffs in the case, to NHTSA, requesting an investigation of the G159. The letter spells out years of evidence obtained by Kurtz, who also has a federal case against Goodyear over the G159 that remains ongoing.