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Even a Race Car Driver Will Lose Control During a Tread Separation

Florida drivers need to understand the dynamics regarding the loss of vehicle control during a tread separation event. Tread separations occur predominantly in warm weather states. Florida, Texas, Arizona and California experience the highest number of tread separations throughout the country. Heat contributes to the degradation of a tire, and therefore it is no coincidence that tire defect cases involving tread separations occur most frequently in these states.

Tread separations also typically occur at highway speeds because the centrifical force of highway speeds is necessary to initiate the force which allows for the unraveling of the tire tread, and the separation of the tread and top steel belt from the remainder of the carcass of the tire.

A tread separation event is a specific type of tire failure that results in certain vehicle dynamics which make it virtually impossible to control the vehicle at highway speeds. Tire manufacturers relentlessly point a finger at, and place blame on, the operator of vehicles which undergo tread separation followed by a rollover event. Nevertheless, science has shown that the operator of a vehicle which experiences a tread separation is operating a vehicle which is reacting dramatically different than it was acting moments before and just prior to the tread separation.

As Florida tire lawyers who have handled scores of tire defect cases, we have often argued to a jury that even an experienced race car driver will probably not be able to prevent a rollover where a full tread separation occurs when an SUV or light truck at highway speeds. We have made these arguments in order to articulate and emphasize the erratic behavior of a vehicle undergoing a tread separation at highway speeds. The driver will first experience a pull in the direction of the side of the vehicle on which the tread separation occurs. In order to prevent the vehicle from going off the roadway or into other traffic, an operator will typically attempt to steer in a direction counter to the pulling effect. When steering in a direction opposite to the pull, the vehicle will first respond minimally, but as soon as the tread detaches from the tire, the vehicle will make a drastic over-response to any steering input.

It is this erratic and unpredictable vehicle responsiveness which contributes to the repeated rollover events witnessed after a tread separation. As Miami tire attorneys at Jay Halpern and Associates we have recently been retained in connection with a case where the driver of a vehicle who was killed in a rollover event after a tread separation was in fact a former race car driver, and at the time of his death, an F-16 fighter jet crew chief in the Unites States Air Force.

We used to argue, poetically and theoretically, that even a race car driver could not control an SUV or light truck from rolling over after a tread separation. We are now engaged in the representation of a family, who has lost a son and father. Sadly, when we now speak about a race car driver losing control because of a tread separation event - we are talking literally, and not figuratively.

Deposing the Defense Tire Expert in a Tire Case

When a tire has failed by tread separation, and allegations are made that the tire was defective, by design and/or manufacture, a defense will undoubtedly be mounted by the tire company that manufactured the tire.

As Florida tire attorneys who routinely deal with tire cases, we are not aware of any case where a tire manufacturer has come forward and admitted that the company manufactured a defective tire. Of all the millions and millions of tires that are manufactured, are we to believe that there is not a single lemon among them? We know that tire companies, from time to time, recall certain models of tires because of defect concerns.

In a tire case lawsuit, the tire company which manufactured the tire will list a forensic tire expert, typically to assert that the tire was not defective in any fashion, and failed because of exposure to misuse and/or road hazards.

In going about a cross-examination of such experts, there is no alternative to thorough preparation for the deposition of the tire expert.

This preparation should include the following:

1. Obtaining a list of all the prior cases in which the expert has testified. Federal rules actually require that such a list be filed with court pleadings. If a case being investigated is proceeding in state court, it is likely that the expert in question has testified in prior cases in federal court so a list of the cases in which he has given testimony can be obtained. This list will usually reveal that the expert has testified virtually exclusively for tire manufacturing and tire service companies as opposed to individuals injured in tire failure and/or rollover events.

2. Review prior deposition testimony. The list of cases will also be a good starting point for obtaining deposition testimony in other cases. Reviewing such testimony is invaluable, and may reveal inconsistent positions taken by an expert in other cases made to protect the interest of the party that has hired him in another case.

Recently, we were involved in a case where an expert for a tire company asserted that a tire in question that had failed was not defective, and that the ingredients used in the inner liner were appropriate, even though they were missing a certain key ingredient. In testimony in another case, on issues that had nothing to do with our case, we found testimony by this expert where he stated that the failure to use that certain key ingredient that was missing in our case was in fact a design defect and that all tire companies were using that key ingredient as far back as two decades ago. This testimony had a dramatic effect tipping the scales in our favor for a fair resolution of the case. There are kernels of gold to be found in prior deposition testimony of adverse experts.

3. Request the production, by various forms of pleadings, of the opinions, reports, field notes and photographs of the adverse expert before the deposition. The notes, photographs and opinions of the adverse expert are the meat and potatoes of the testimony that he will offer to oppose the claims in the tire case. A thorough investigation should be made into the basis for each opinion, in order to understand whether there is some legitimate scientific foundation for statements which serve to protect the tire industry. The forensic work of the adverse expert should be reviewed by the Plaintiff's own expert to determine whether the adverse expert's conclusions and work lack scientific foundation.

The three methods listed above are just a beginning point for thorough preparation for the cross-examination of an adverse tire expert in a failure case. Thorough preparation may unearth bias, inconsistent statements, lack of scientific foundation, or other chinks in an expert's armor.

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The Value of Studying Companion Tires in a Tire Case

photo rollover k4.JPGWhen a tire fails, causing a rollover and catastrophic injuries, an investigation will follow regarding the cause of the tire failure.

Tire manufacturers and sellers will rush to propose a catalogue of reasons as to why the tire failed. Not surprisingly, this list will always exclude design and manufacturing defects built into the tire by the tire manufacturer.

Miami tire lawyers and lawyers throughout the country who handle product liability cases will be confronted with dealing with this catalogue of reasons for the tire failure, which will undoubtedly focus on the driver, user, or owner of the vehicle and tire.

In order to properly investigate and test the theories set forth by defendants in tire cases, it is helpful to analyze the companion tires on the vehicle.

For this reason, the companion tires and the spare tire need to be preserved for forensic evaluation by tire experts. This evidence is critical because the companion tires have typically experienced the same environmental forces as the failed tire, but unlike the failed tire, these companion tires did not fall apart and cause a rollover accident with horrific injuries.

As tire lawyers who have handled hundreds of tire cases, we have seen virtually every theory set forth by defendants in tire cases about why a tire failed without reference to any manufacturing or design defect. Three examples which come to mind are:

1. Under inflation as evidenced by rim flange grooving;
2. A puncturing object inside the tire;
3. A prior repair and patch on the tire.

We have successfully resolved cases for clients where one or more of the three conditions listed above have existed in a failed tire. While some of these conditions may not be desireable, tire lawyers must be able to show that these findings are not related to a condition that caused the tire failure and motor vehicle accident.

Companion tires have been instrumental to our proof in these cases, because we have shown that the three conditions listed above have existed in the companion tires on a vehicle which was in an rollover event, and which companion tires never failed. We have even shown that these conditions have existed on tires that have experienced much more service life on the vehicle than the tire that failed.

For this reason, the preservation and forensic examination of the companion tires and spare tire are critical to protecting the interest of those killed or injured in a rollover event caused by a tire failure. When confronted with a list of theories that deflect attention away from manufacturing and design defects, the companion tires and spare tire are critical evidence in disproving defense theories that (stealing a line from My Cousin Vinnie) do not hold water.

After the Evidence is Preserved - Sending the Evidence to a Tire Expert

In a tire case, the most important initial step is to secure and protect the evidence. After this has been accomplished, the tire that has failed will need to be examined by a forensic tire expert. This may seem like a simple straight forward proposition, but getting the tire expert together in the same room with the critical evidence may be subject to more nuances than the inexperienced attorney may suspect.

Miami tire lawyers understand that the tire that has failed, together with the tread pieces that may have detached from the tire are key pieces of evidence which need to be preserved throughout the case so that they may be presented at trial, if necessary. Lose this key evidence and a multi-million dollar case may be lost.

Because there are only a handful of qualified forensic tire experts in the entire world, the tire expert chosen by an attorney may reside far from the location where the tire is being stored. Accordingly, some attorneys will use a delivery service such as FedEx. When such a service is used, overnight delivery with a tracking system should be employed, and upon delivery of the subject tire and tread parts to the expert confirmation should be established between the expert and the attorney.

In order to prevent the tire from being lost in shipping, some attorneys have the expert travel to the location where the tire is being stored or the plaintiff attorney's law office to inspect the tire. Other attorneys have the subject tire delivered to the expert personally, by an investigator or by a courier. This is not always feasible or practicle, and it does not necessarily insure that the tire will arrive without being lost or damaged.

While it is not common, tires which are key evidence in rollover cases have been lost in transit, and with the loss of such evidence the case may also be lost. Because of this concern, great care must be taken at both the sending and receiving ends when a failed tire, together with tread pieces, are sent to an expert for a forensic examination, or sent back to the Plaintiff's attorney's office.

This same high degree of care should also be taken when the defendant in a tire defect case requests an opportunity to have one of their own experts examine the tire. In such cases, it is important for tire lawyers to document the chain of custody of the tire, and place the burden on the defendant, to take possession of, and responsibility for, the tire. In the alternative the Plaintiff's attorney should insist on eliminating the concern about the loss of the tire by having the defendant's expert come to the plaintiff's attorney's office, or the location where the tire is being stored for that expert to complete his or her examination of the tire.

Bottom line: great precaution should be taken to document the chain of custody of a failed tire, or any failed product in a product liability case. Product Liability lawyers must take whatever measures are necessary to reduce the possibility of the loss of the evidence. Nevertheless, practicality and cost consciousness require that shipping, with pre-cautions, also be used in these cases.

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The Perfect Tire Case - There Is No Such Thing

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As Miami trial lawyers, who handle a significant number of tire cases, we have been asked to consider what constitutes a perfect tire case. Upon reflection, we believe that such a case is akin to a unicorn, a mythical beast.

The perfect tire case in our view would go something like this: A consumer purchases a brand new vehicle, and upon riding out of the car dealership's lot, one of the tires suffers a tread separation, which results in an accident causing injury. This event is captured on the dealership's surveillance video and becomes exhibit #1 at trial.

Unfortunately, that is not the way defective tire cases unravel, literally or figuratively. A tread separation which arises out of a manufacturing or design defect is like a cancer which takes many miles and revolutions of the tire to manifest itself.

These events are almost never captured on video tape and have to be reconstructed by accident reconstruction experts. Furthermore, the many miles required to be traveled before these events typically occur allow for the tire manufacturers to attempt to deflect liability to other roadway events that may have occurred during these miles of usage.

Accordingly, tire attorneys who handle these cases in Miami and throughout Florida are confronted with a litany of defenses, including the usual suspects:

• Some other roadway hazard or event caused the tire tread separation;
• The driver did not properly inflate the tires over a period of time and this contributed to the tread separation event; and
• The driver did not respond properly and contributed to the vehicle losing control.

Unlike other types of cases, such as a rear-end automobile accident case, tire defect cases are almost always challenged by a laundry list of defenses, including those cited above. Despite the fact that we have tried and settled over 100 tire defect cases, we have never had the experience of a tire manufacturer admitting, in one of our cases, that they made a defective tire.

If a victim drove out of a car dealership's lot with a brand new vehicle and brand new tires, and a tire disintegrated and it was all captured on video, perhaps that would engender an admission of liability, but it would not surprise us, if even under those circumstances, a tire manufacturer came up with some creative theory to contest liability.

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Preserve the Evidence for Product Liability Cases

The three most important rules for handling product liability cases are: (1) preserve the evidence; (2) preserve the evidence; and (3) preserve the evidence. This is especially true for Florida product liability lawyers who must deal with climate, hurricanes, and salt water conspiring with other factors to erode evidence.

When the integrity of a product is called into question, through allegations of design or manufacturing defect, it is critical to preserve the product following an accident. Sometimes, it is actually impossible to preserve the evidence when the product itself has been destroyed as a result of an accident. For example, a fire caused by a defect may destroy much of the evidence, or a boat which malfunctions may be lost at sea. Nevertheless, to the extent possible, whatever remains of the product should be preserved by storage, photographing, and/or videotaping.

If the product is damaged, an exemplar product may have to be purchased for inspection and analysis in addition to whatever non-destructive testing can be done with the product involved in the accident. Under Florida law, the plaintiff is charged with the responsibility of proving that the product was defective by design or manufacture at the time it left the hands of the maker or distributor of the product. This typically requires a full forensic examination of the product, to the extent allowed without creating further destruction of the product.

At the outset of an attorney's investigation into a product liability cases, thought must be given to what efforts need to be undertaken to obtain the product, store it safely, or notify the party who has possession of the product that the product needs to be maintained and preserved. Failure to preserve the evidence will undoubtedly lead to legal challenges, some of which may be insurmountable.

Miami product liability lawyers need to keep the critical mantra of "preserve the evidence" in mind at the outset of a case. At Jay Halpern and Associates, we have had the experience of hiring scuba divers to search for component parts of a truck that crashed into oncoming traffic on the 7 mile bridge, and then flipped over a guardrail into the Atlantic Ocean. This is just one example of the extremes that may need to be explored to collect and preserve evidence. Dedication to the concept of preserving the evidence not only requires the expenditure of funds, but also requires creative thinking.

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Can a Tire Be Defective If It Has a Nail?

The presence of a nail in a tire that has failed does not necessarily rule out the fact that the tire may have failed as a result of a manufacturing or design defect.

While it is true that a nail may cause a tire failure, a full investigation must be made regarding whether or not a specific tire failure was caused by the presence of a nail or some other factor.

A puncturing nail will allow for loss of air pressure. Driving a vehicle on a tire with critically low air pressure will allow for the tire to sag and for the buildup of heat within the tire. Ultimately, the tire will fail in the form of a sidewall blowout.

Nevertheless, there are many tread separation events that are caused by a manufacturing or design defect in a tire that coincidentally also has a nail, but the nail had no influence on the tire failure event.

Consider a motor vehicle whose headlights are not working. If the motor vehicle is stopped at a red light and rear -ended in the bright light of day, the fact that the headlights were not in good mechanical repair had nothing to do with the cause of the car accident.

Likewise, a nail may or may not be the cause of a tire failure. We have observed tire tread separation cases caused by manufacturing and design defects where the tread pulled away from the tire, but forensic evidence left on the tire showed that the tread separation event did not originate anywhere near the area of the puncturing nail. Even patch repairs for prior punctures have remained completely intact when the tread has pulled away from the tire and experts have found that if the repair was done properly it had nothing to do with the tread separation event.

Obviously, the presence of a nail or prior tire repair complicates the analysis of the case, but a knee jerk reaction, concluding that a nail or a prior tire repair is the cause of every tire failure is inappropriate.

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Tire Blowouts vs. Tread Separations - Know the Difference (Part III)

photo rollover k1.jpgThis is the last entry in a three part series about the difference between tire blowouts and tread separations. We will focus on the consequences and effects of these two different types of tire failures, having already discussed what happens and what causes these two different events.

While the loss of air pressure in a tire due to a blowout will cause some degree of drag and vehicle instability, the forces and effects of a tread separation are even more severe and dangerous. Traction is lost in the wheel position where the tread separation has occurred. The vehicle will mechanically pull to the side on which the tread separation has occurred. The normal, obvious and rational response is for the driver to apply steering input in the opposite direction to avoid going off the road or hitting other vehicles on the roadway. This phenomenon is also accompanied by the vehicle itself transforming into a vehicle with an exaggerated response to input (commonly referred to as "over-steer").

As previously pointed out, tread separations require highway speeds in order to generate the centrifugal forces necessary to initiate a tread separation. The combination of highway speeds, loss of traction, a mechanical pull to one side, and a metamorphosis by the vehicle to one with an exaggerated response to any input is a recipe for disaster.

This dynamic is further compounded by the fact that the tread slab itself may get caught up in the wheel well or interact with other parts of the undercarriage of the vehicle to create additional erratic forces on the vehicle. In addition, tread separation events may be accompanied by a secondary tire blowout and loss of air pressure. Other factors that may influence controllability of the vehicle in a tread separation event are whether the tread peel is a complete or partial detachment, and the length of time that it takes for the tread to detach from the tire. The loss of control generally increases the longer it takes for the tread to peel off of the tire.

In conclusion, tire blowouts create some drag, pull and loss of control which can result in on road collision or rollovers, but a tread separation event has even a higher degree of vehicle instability, and is more likely the result of a manufacturing or design defect.

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Tire Blowouts vs. Tread Separations - Know the Difference (Part II)

The critical difference between a "Tire Blowout" and a "Tread Separation" is the cause of these two distinct types of tire failures. In Part I of this article we explained meaning of the different terminology and events associated with two different types of tire failures. We will now discuss the cause these two distinct phenomenons, and how this relates to Miami tire defect lawyers analyzing a case.

The causes of a tread separation are generally not related to low air pressure. Instead a process of separation begins in the tire, usually at the belt edges, where the two steel belts have been cut to conform to the shape of the tire. This process is the actual un-bonding of the tire as one component product. This breaking apart may be initiated by many factors including tire aging, poor chemical compounds, inadequate adhesion, and a host of other manufacturing and design defects, which will then expand throughout the tire circumferentially until the tread and top steel belt are dislodged from the component parts of the tire below, and a dramatic detachment of the tread occurs.

Tread separations typically require highway speeds to generate the necessary centrifugal forces to cause the tread to unravel away from the other component parts of the tire. Highway speeds are not necessary to initiate a blowout.

When a tread separation occurs the peeling away of the tread may cause radial tears or splits which allow for the sudden and total loss of air and pressure from the tire. Consequently, a tread separation may lead to a blowout of air as a secondary event.

Tire blowouts occur independent of a tread separation, and in such cases the cause is entirely different than the factors which initiate a tread separation event. The most common cause of a blowout is low air pressure, which causes the tire to sag and allows for the buildup of heat within the tire. Ultimately, the sidewalls which are not reinforced by steel belts will burst and allow for the dramatic expulsion of air and pressure.

In part III we will discuss the consequences of tire blowouts vs. tread separation events.

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Tire Blowouts vs. Tread Separations - Know the Difference (Part I)

Miami tire lawyers need to distinguish between what is commonly referred to as a "blowout" and a "tread separation" event. The term "blowout" is a misnomer when generically used to describe all types of tire failures. Newspaper reporters, Florida law enforcement, and attorneys commonly misuse the term "blowout."

To tire experts, vehicle dynamic engineers, and product liability attorneys familiar with these types of cases the term "tire blowout" is not synonymous with "tread separation," as these two terms represent two entirely different types of phenomenon.

Experts in the field generally define a "tire blowout" as the rapid loss of air and pressure from a tire through a tear or opening in the tire which results in the tire suddenly going flat.

A tread separation is a very specific type of tire failure initiated by the top layer of tread and the outermost steel belt peeling away from the carcass of the tire in a fashion that leaves the remainder of the tire intact with the tread peeled away either completely or partially. The tire lexicon is further muddied by the fact that "tread separations" are also referred to as "tread belt detachments" or "tire de-laminations."

While both "tire blowouts" and "tread separations" may occur suddenly and unexpectedly, and both may affect vehicle dynamics and controllability, there are critical differences relating to:

1. What each term is describing (as explained above);
2. What causes these two different types of tire failures;
3. What happens following these two different types of tire failures and what effect they have on vehicle dynamics and controllability.

In part II of this article we will discuss the causes; and in part III we will discuss the consequences of these two types of tire failure events.

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The Magic Nail - A Tire Defect Case Study

As Miami tire attorneys we had the opportunity last year to represent a young man who suffered catastrophic injuries in a tire defect case resulting in a rollover.

The defendant who manufactured the tire defended the case on a theory that a nail, at some time prior to the tire failure, had punctured the tire, and penetrated all the way through to the inner liner. It was hypothesized that the nail remained embedded in the tire, but allowed pressurized air to seep into the component parts of the tire which caused deterioration of the tire and ultimately a tire failure by tread separation.

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The opinions of our experts were diametrically opposed, and one of our experts expressed the opinion that every system within the tire designed to prevent tread separation was deficient and defective.

Even though we had confidence in our tire experts, and the manner in which they presented their opinions, we took an aggressive approach and attempted to disprove the manufacturer's theory that the tire peeled apart and unraveled because of a nail.

First, we showed through x-rays that the interior portions of the tire, including the microfibers in the bottom steel belt were not disturbed in any fashion in the area where the manufacturer claimed the nail had penetrated into the tire. How could a nail have gone from the outside, through the tread and all the way through to the inner liner, and then been yanked out at the time of the tire failure and not leave some evidence of disturbance in the area through which it must have passed?

On videotape deposition we asked the defense tire experts to locate and pinpoint the area where they believed the nail had entered the tire. Even though the tread had been pulled off the tire the underlying carcass of the tire remained intact. After identifying the area where they believed the nail passed through the tire, their experts, while on videotape, were unable to identify anything that resembled a hole caused by a nail passing through the tire.

The final downfall of the manufacturer's nail theory was when we forensically explored the other rear tire that had not failed, and which remained intact during the accident. The other tire was made by another manufacturer, had protective features - such as cap plies -which were absent in the failed tire. Here we had a perfect example of another tire that had experienced the same roadway use as the tire in question but did not fail or fall apart.

Interestingly, the rear companion tire also had a puncturing object inserted into it, and you could see the head of the object in the tread. This did not cause the tire to fail and the defendant/manufacturer argued that it was possibly because this puncturing object did not go all the way through to the inner liner. Thereafter, we had the companion tire dismounted from the rim which dramatically showed that the puncturing object (a metal spike larger than a nail) went all the way through to the inner liner. In the companion tire we had proof positive that the manufacturer/defendant's theory could not be substantiated.

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Impact - Real or Phantom Cause of Tire Failures?

Tire tread separations are a concern for drivers in South Florida because this phenomenon most typically occurs in hot weather climates. Tread separations occur when the tread and the top steel belt detach, and pull away from the underlying steel belt and the remainder of the carcass of the tire, leaving a tire stripped of the tread.

As Miami tire lawyers pursuing claims against tire manufacturers for product defects associated with manufacturing and design, we have brought claims against almost every major tire manufacturer in the world. Many of these claims have related to tire defects specifically associated with tread separation events. The desire to avoid these events is compelling because tread separations commonly result in loss of control of the vehicle and rollover accidents.

Many times in these cases tire manufacturers have countered our allegations of tire defect with the theory that the tire, at some previous time in its life, experienced some sort of impact which may have caused damage to the integrity of the internal components of the tire.

In taking the sworn statements of many tire experts hired by tire companies we repeatedly find that these experts are incapable of answering the simplest questions about their asserted theory that impact may have caused damage to the tire which resulted in the tread separation. These experts are uniformly unable to answer the following questions: What is the object that caused the impact? What is the size of the object? At what speed was the object struck?

Furthermore, if it is a rear tire that separated we are always curious why the front tire did not also suffer some damage by an object that common sense indicates must have also been run over by the front tire. When we ask these experts if common roadway objects such as a curb, rock or two by four piece of wood could have been the object that was impacted and caused the tread separation; we are told that it is possible that such commonplace objects could in fact create an impact resulting in a catastrophic tire failure.

It is amusing and ironic to see repeated advertisements for tires showing vehicles riding on rocky and mountainous trails, lifting off the roadway, and going airborne and bouncing over boulders and other objects. These advertisements are designed to show the rugged and durable nature of tires being sold. Yet when someone suffers a significant injury as a result of a rollover caused by a tire failure attorneys representing injured individuals in tire defect cases are confronted with the theory that impact, as apposed to some manufacturing or design defect, caused the tire to break apart. In controlled studies tire experts and engineers have been unable to recreate a tire tread separation caused by impact damage. This further heightens the suspicion about the asserted defense that impact damage causes tread separations.

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The Recipe Matters - Even With Tires

There are two main enemies which break down a tire. One is heat and the other is oxygen. Warm weather makes Florida an area where drivers are more susceptible to tire failures, and tire design, particularly the tire ingredients are important to tire safety.

A tire is a highly engineered composite of different materials and compounds. The innerliner of a tire is a thin layer of rubber on the innermost portion of a modern radial tire. The innerliner is positioned next to the pressurized air which inflates the tire and its primary function is to prevent that air and moisture from entering into the internal parts of the tire. Accordingly, the innerliner is designed to be impermeable to air and moisture.

Rubber in general is to some degree permeable. That is why an inflated balloon will begin to sag over time because the pressurized air inside of the balloon will permeate to the outer atmosphere and leave the balloon less inflated. For the same reason, over time the tire pressure of tires should be checked on occasion because some loss of air pressure will occur naturally over time.

One of the main ingredients used in innerliners to prevent air from permeating into the internal components of the tire is a substance called halobutyl. Halobutyl was first patented in 1937 and has been recognized by tire experts to be 13 times more resistant to permeation than natural rubber. This is important because when air permeates into the internal components of the tire the oxygen acts to deteriorate the various compounds, which over time may lead to tire failures including tread separations.

When our firm is involved in tire failure cases we seek information regarding the percentage of halobutyl used in innerliner by various manufacturers. This information is closely guarded by tire manufacturers. The manufacturers typically object to providing this information as a trade secret. When this information is extracted from them, typically requiring court orders, it is commonly provided under the protection of a confidentiality order.

Some manufacturers have used 100% halobutyl in their tire innerliners on passenger and light truck tires. We have found a great variety in the percentage of halobutyl used in different tires by different companies, and where we believe the percentage of halobutyl is too low, we have addressed this as a design defect contributing to tire failures.

Tires are heated or vulcanized in an effort to have the various ingredients of the tire meld together as one unit which cannot be broken apart at the various interfaces of the different components. When something is baked to create one cohesive unit the ingredients are critical. Halobutyl is a critical ingredient to provide protection from air permeation in the innerliner of a tire.

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Nylon Overlays: An Important Tire Safety Feature

Tire Diagram.bmpFlorida drivers need to be aware of tire tread separations which are a phenomenon known to occur in hot weather climates.

When a tread separation occurs, the tire tread and top steel belt detach from the carcass of the tire, typically resulting in loss of control of the vehicle, and often times followed by rollover events and catastrophic injuries.

A tire is made up of different systems and components. Many of these systems and components have features designed to prevent tread separation because the consequences of such an event can be tragic.

One of the systems utilized to prevent a tread separation is a nylon overlay, commonly called a nylon cap ply, which is a layer of rubberized parallel nylon cords, which are wrapped circumferentially over the top of the steel belts and under the tread. These nylon overlays are designed to prevent catastrophic tread and belt detachments.

The nylon overlay or cap ply acts to prevent or retard the pulling apart of the two steel belts from each other which results in a tread separation. A tread separation typically begins at the outer edges of the steel belt, and by having this area wrapped in a protective layer of nylon the separation process is prevented from advancing.

Many tire manufacturers have admitted through testimony in lawsuits that the cost of adding this feature of a nylon overlay to a tire would typically cost less than one dollar per tire. After many years of arguing against the use of nylon overlays, many tire manufacturers are now utilizing this safety feature on a more routine basis because of its proven effectiveness.

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Continental Tire Issues Nationwide Recall

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On March 19, 2011, NHTSA announced that Continental Tires would be recalling 390,000 light truck tires. Approximately, 330,000 of the tires in question were original equipment in the 2008 and 2009 Ford F-250 and F-350 pickup trucks. An additional, 60,000 tires were sold as replacement tires.

Continental issued the recall as a result of the tire's susceptibility to suffer tread belt separations. A tread belt separation is a phenomenon where a tire's tread becomes completely detached from the underlying tire structures. This phenomenon exposes the operator of a motor vehicle to the sudden and unexpected loss of control, often resulting in a rollover and catastrophic injuries and even deaths to vehicle occupants.

The recalled tires experienced a high rate of uneven wear, vibration and separation at the belt edges; all conditions that could lead to tread belt separations. Continental has already received notice of one fatality and a personal injury.

The recalled tires are the following:

CONTINENTAL / CONTITRAC / LT275/70R18 125/122S
CONTINENTAL / CONTITRAC TR BSW / LT275/70R18 125/122S
CONTINENTAL / CONTITRAC TR OWL / LT275/70R18 125/122S

As South Florida tire lawyers, Jay Halpern & Associates will be closely following the Continental recall. We have handled dozens of cases involving Continental tires and other recalled tires and continue to handle a significant number of tire defect cases.

Tires are intended to be designed to resist tread belt separation because the consequences of this event are known to be tragic. As shown by the recall, tread belt separations can occur due to design and manufacturing defects despite the fact that a tire manufacturer complies with the minimum federal standards.

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