Lawsuit to Be Filed in Fatal High School Crash

According to a News4Jax article, the lawyer who represents many of the families of the high school students who died in an SUV rollover crash in Jacksonville on the last day of school a year ago, sued Cooper Tire and Rubber Monday, June 7, 2010.

Attorney Eric Block called the “Cooper Tire” case a “preventable accident.” The 35-page complaint names Cooper Tire, Ford Motor, Big Chief Motor Company, and Imagine Cars of Orlando that sold the family the 1997 Ford Explorer that rolled.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Shannon Broome, one of four students from Ed White High School who piled in a Ford Explorer on June 5, 2009 heading for the beach. Behind the wheel and wearing his seat belt was 15-year-old unlicensed driver, Brandon Hodges. When the rear left tire experienced tread separation at 65 mph on an I-295 ramp, the driver lost control of the Explorer and the vehicle rolled.

Broome was injured in the crash but survived along with four others. Kimber Krebs, 15, Dennis Stout, 17, John Kiely, 15 and Erin Hurst Livingston, 15, all died. The driver, Hodges, was the only one wearing a seat belt and was not seriously injured. Block says this is the first of eight complaints.

Why file against Cooper Tire? Block says the American company knowingly manufactured a dangerous product then lied to the public that the tire was worn and had no tread, shifting the fault for the crash on the car’s owner. Indicating what his arguments in court will be, he says the Explorer was in the shop just two weeks before the accident and Big Chief Auto put two new tires on the front, not including the one that blew, but did not warn the car’s owner about any visible problems with the tire. “It’s their job to sell new tires,” he says, and if the Cooper Cobra tire looked worn they would have suggested replacing it.

“Big Chief would not let them leave the premises in a worn condition,” Block said to reporters at a news conference Monday, June 7.

Cooper Tire is facing hundreds of lawsuits over tire tread separation.

Block says, “The manufacturing process subjects tires to abnormal tread separations known to happen at high speeds and temperatures,” and the attorney says that fits perfectly with what happened last June 5. Block asked reporters why Cooper Tire would lie about the tire being worn and underinflated.

“Just look at the traffic homicide report,” he says. The FHP found the tire in good condition, properly inflated with tread in a good condition.

Instead, Cooper Tires is blaming the victim.

Brandon Hodges is still facing manslaughter charges and will stand trial in juvenile court this year.

Cooper Tire, in a statement released Monday, said while the crash was a horrible and tragic event, the driver was underage, he has been charged, there were nine people in a vehicle designed for five, and no one but the driver was wearing their seat belt.

The tire manufacturer says the design or safety of its product had nothing to do with the accident, and in fact, that tire line has “an excellent record of performance,” despite the fact that the tire company has been sued hundreds of times for catastrophic injuries resulting from defective tires.

No matter what the public thinks about a 15-year-old driver and the failure to wear seat belts, an American company should be stopped from continuing to sell defective tires and just paying off claims.

If you or a loved one has been injured in an auto accident in Florida and suspect that the tires, seat belt, roof, air bags or any other vehicle part may be defective, an experienced Florida vehicle defect accident attorney can help you explore your claim.