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.