Tracey Parker, 28, was driving on the highway when the rear, right Continental tire on her 2006 Chevy Cobalt blew out. Parker lost control of her vehicle, which veered into the median, rolling over three times. The driver’s occupant compartment was reportedly severely compromised.
Parker, who was wearing her seat belt, suffered fractures to her cervical spine, jaw, left humerus, left and right scapula, and multiple ribs. She also suffered internal injuries, including two collapsed lungs and herniated disks in her neck and lower back. She was placed in an induced coma and hospitalized for more than 100 days and underwent 17 surgeries, including multilevel fusions to her neck. Her past medical expenses totaled more than $1.5 million.
The fracture to Parker’s left scapula healed with a nonunion. As a result, Parker has excruciating pain and a severely limited range of motion in her left, dominant arm. She also suffers from a limited range of motion in her neck and severe pain radiating into her right arm.
Parker’s physicians testified that her pain will worsen with time. She will require additional fusion surgeries to her neck and lower back and a possible correction of the scapular mal-union. Her future medical expenses are estimated at over $500,000.
At the time of the crash, Parker was working as a customer sales representative for a home shopping network. She has not been able to return to work.
Parker and her husband sued Continental Tire, alleging that the tire (a Continental Contact 195/60R15 model) was defectively manufactured. As a result, they claimed, the tire left the defendant’s Charlotte, N.C. plant with a defective bead.
An investigation was conducted after the accident showing that the bead had failed and that two bead wires were protruding outside the tire. The plaintiff’s expert testified that certain marks inside the tire near the protruding wires showed that the bead cords had been defectively manufactured. Other evidence showed that the tire, which was three years old when it failed, had a six-year warranty and 20,000 miles of tread left on it. The plaintiffs also claimed that the tire was improperly inspected.
Continental denied that the tire was defective and argued that it had failed because of poor maintenance and having been driven in a “run flat” condition. The defense also argued that Parker’s husband was at fault for failing to properly maintain the tire by keeping it properly inflated. The defense cited deposition testimony by Parker’s husband that he had noticed that the tire occasionally lost a very small amount of air, although he also testified that he never let it get low and always filled it up when he noticed a small air loss. The defense further argued that General Motors, the manufacturer of the Cobalt, was at fault for failing to catch the alleged bead defect when the tire was placed on the rim at the auto plant.
Finally, the defense argued that Parker could return to sedentary work.
GM and Parker’s husband remained on the verdict form as Fabre defendants (nonparties to whom fault may be attributed).
To counter the defendant’s argument that the tire was poorly maintained, the plaintiffs’ experts testified that there was no evidence of uneven tread wear, no punctures, and no repairs or any of the other tire manufacturer’s typical alleged indications of chronic under inflation or poor maintenance.
On October 3, 2013, the jury found that the tire contained a manufacturing defect and allocated fault at 90 percent to Continental, 6.5 percent to GM and 3.5 percent to Parker’s husband. The jury then awarded about $10.96 million, including $4 million for future pain and suffering, physical impairment, disfigurement, mental anguish and loss of enjoyment of life; $3 million for those same damages in the past; about $1.58 million in past medical expenses; $1 million to Parker’s husband for loss of consortium; about $767,400 for present value future medical expenses; and $100,000 for past lost earnings. After reduction for fault, the verdict totals about $9.87 million.
Continental has filed motions for a new trial.
For more information, contact one of our Gacovino Lake attorneys at 1-800-246-HURT (4878).