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John Bisnar
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Tire failure deaths promt lawsuit against tire maker

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Relatives of five people killed in a car wreck in Ontario last week have filed a lawsuit blaming a defective tire for the crash, the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin reported today.

The suit, filed in federal court in Los Angeles, seeks unspecified damages from North Carolina-based Continental Tire North America and alleges wrongful death, breach of warranty and negligence.

The crash occurred March 15 when a 2000 Ford F-150 pickup careened out of control on the 10 Freeway near Vineyard Avenue and smashed into a eucalyptus tree and sound wall. The driver, Mercedes Malagon Ortiz, was killed, along with passengers Raquel Malagon Camacho, 9; Rene Camacho Pena, 42; Prisca Malagon Camacho, 40; and Jordy Camacho Malagon, 4.

Two children, ages 10 and 3, survived the crash. One lost his leg below the knee, according to the article. The victims were all Ontario residents. The article states that eyewitnesses to the crash said it appeared the tread had separated from the pickup’s otherwise intact left-rear tire. The tire was a Continental brand Contitrac AW.

The lawsuit, brought by Yuri Malagon and Virginia Malagon, both of Madera County, whose parents and baby brother were among those killed, claims that model was recalled in 2002 because the tread had a tendency to detach from the rest of the tire. The lawsuit claims that had the tire’s tread not separated from the tire, the collision would not have occurred.

The California Highway Patrol has yet to complete its investigation. The family’s attorney agreed that it’s unusual to sue for wrongful death so quickly. In this case, he said, the lawsuit is necessary to preserve access to the tire.

“Historically when I’ve done these types of cases, I like to get moving immediately so I can get a hold of the tire and have it examined by an expert,” the attorney said.

He also told reporters that he is convinced that the tire was defective and based his assessment on a newspaper photograph that clearly shows how the tire’s tread delaminated.

Continental Tire officials could not be reached for comment late Wednesday.

Millions of tires have been recalled in recent years due to dangerous defects. Tread separation is one of the most common dangers we see in tires with manufacturing defects. Also, it’s possible for tread separation to occur after heavy wear to the tires and improper inflation. If this happens to an SUV or a 15-passenger van, the driver and passengers are at an increased risk for accidents because the vehicles have a higher center of gravity and are prone to rollover accidents.

By holding manufacturers of defective accountable for the injuries their defective products cause we, as a society, make customer safety an important factor in corporate decision making. If a manufacturer is going to be held liable for damages caused by their products, they are naturally going to produce a product that is less likely to cause injury. As a society, through our laws and judicial system, we promote safety.

I am not buying the attorney’s story about why he filed the lawsuit so fast. There are more efficient ways to preserve evidence and any skilled personal injury attorney knows them. In my opinion he wanted to file early for self serving reasons and/or for reasons that had to do with who will be the guardian of the children for the purposes of the lawsuit. I hope these tactics do not have negative repercussions for his clients.