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Defective Tires – Made in China

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It all started with pet food, moving on to toothpaste and toy trains. Now, a lawsuit says cheap tires made in China caused a fatal traffic accident in Pennsylvania, killing two and injuring two. The tires in question were sold under the names Westlake, Telluride, Compass and YKS, according to an article in the consumer watchdog Web site.

And now, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has ordered the recall of as many as 450,000 tires purchased from a Chinese manufacturer Hangzhou Zhongce Rubber Co.

The case sounds a lot like the Firestone tire recall of 2000 when defective tires were said to have caused a series of accidents and rollovers, many involving the Ford Explorer sport utility vehicle. The lawsuit alleges that the Hangzhou “deliberately and secretly removed a safety feature from these tires,” which caused the accident. The tires were manufactured by China’s Hangzhou Zhongce Rubber Co. and imported by Foreign Tire Sales Inc. (FTS), of Union, N.J. FTS says a crucial safety feature was omitted from as many as 450,000 tires it imported from the Chinese company since 2002.

FTS has filed another lawsuit in a New Jersey court seeking to shift all liability in this case to the Chinese company. The key question in this lawsuit is about a six-millimeter layer of rubber placed between the tire’s steel belts meant to strengthen the tire, which FTS says Hangzhou removed without notifying them.

Aside from a larger than usual number of complaints from customers, there was at least one other accident involving these tires when an ambulance crashed in May 2006 where a blown tire caused the emergency vehicle to roll over. FTS officials say they stopped buying tires from the Chinese company in June 2006.

The damage, however, has been done. In the Pennsylvania accident, apart from the two men who died, one other man suffered a permanent brain injury and the driver of the van sustained less severe injuries. The families of the three passengers as well as the driver filed the lawsuits. The recalled tires include light truck tires sold under the names Westlake, Telluride, Compass and YKS in the following sizes:

• LT235/75R-15
• LT225/75R-16
• LT235/85R-16
• LT245/75R-16
• LT265/75R-16 and
• LT3X10.5-15

According to FTS, tires manufactured by Hangzhou were also sold by the following distributors:

• Tireco, Compton, California
• Strategic Import Supply, Wayzata, Minnesota
• Omni United USA, Inc., Jacksonville, Florida
• Orteck International, Inc. of Gaithersburg, Maryland
• K&D Tire Wholesalers LLC, Carlsbad, California
• Robinson Tire in Laurel, Mississippi. Safety Research & Strategies, Inc.

As for FTS filing a lawsuit seeking to shift all liability for the Pennsylvania accident to their Chinese suppliers, I trust that the courts will not be bamboozled by FTS’ attorneys. FTS chose the supplier of the products it sold and should be held accountable for its choices. FTS should have performed inspections on the products it purchases and enters into the stream of commerce to determine that standards and quality requirements are met. Based upon these theories and others, FTS should be held responsible for any defects in the products it sells and should not be immunized from liability as the nation Chamber of Commerce lobbies for. It is not appropriate for a wholesaler like FTS to skirt liability by blaming its supplier.

If you have questions regarding an injury accident involving a suspected defective tire, call me for a consultation, its free. John Bisnar of Bisnar Chase Personal Injury Attorneys, 1-800-259-6373.

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