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Product Liability

Tire Blowouts & Product Liability

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A tire blowout is a specific type of tire failure in which a rapid loss of inflation pressure causes a tire to explode or burst. A blowout can cause a section of a tire to sever entirely or a chunk of the tire may literally “blow out”, leaving a visible hole in the side-wall. Tire tread can also separate, either due to impact, such as striking a pothole or curb, or from defects in the tire’s physical construction. According to tirerack.com:

“Most blowouts are caused by too little air pressure allowing the tire to flex beyond its elastic limits until it overheats to the point where the rubber loses its bond to the internal fabric and steel cord reinforcement.”

A tire blowout results in a rapid or immediate loss of tire function, leaving the moving vehicle riding only on its rim. Steering and braking capabilities are adversely impacted and the abrupt loss of control can produce a skid or rollover crash, particularly if a blowout occurs at highway speeds. Accidents are more likely to occur when a truck or SUV have a tire blowout due to their high centers of gravity.

Defective Tire Lawsuits in the US

Tire manufacturers can be held liable if injuries result from a blowout. A product defect is often the cause if tread separation occurs but is not caused by an outside object or improper inflation,

One of the nation’s largest, high-profile tire blowout liability suits involved tire-maker Bridgestone/Firestone and its massive tire recall from August of 2000. In the years leading up to and following the recall, hundreds of consumer lawsuits were filed in conjunction with the accidents caused by defective tire blowouts. Three Firestone models, accounting for nearly 6.5 million units, were commonly equipped on new SUVs like the Ford Explorer. Defects in the tire’s construction caused tread separation at highway speeds, resulting in dangerous blowouts. Large personal injury lawsuits followed after 271 deaths and several hundred injuries resulted from rollovers and crashes linked to the defective tire blowouts.

Another manufacturer, Pirelli Tire, LLC, issued a voluntary tire recall on certain motorcycle tires made between June and September 2008. Pirelli claimed that the tires were stamped with incorrect load range and inflation pressure specifications. Improper loading and inflation commonly leads to blowouts, as discussed previously. Although no accidents were reported, Pirelli could have been held liable if any riders experienced blowouts as a result of improper inflation guidelines.

7 Steps to follow if you Experience a Tire Blowout

If a driver experiences a blowout, a loud bang and “whoosh” will be followed by a flapping sound, consistent with vehicle speed. The vehicle may tilt slightly and will pull in the direction of the blown tire. Below are some tips to follow if you experience a tire blowout:

  1. Stay calm and do not react suddenly or abruptly.
  2. Do not brake and do not lift off of the accelerator.
  3. Maintain or apply light, constant accelerator pressure to stabilize the vehicle.
  4. Offset the vehicle’s pull by gently counter-steering – just enough to keep the vehicle in its lane.
  5. As soon as the vehicle feels stabilized and is tracking in a straight line, turn on the hazard lights, ease off the accelerator, and then brake very gently.
  6. Gradually pull over to the side of the road. If possible, keep all four wheels on the pavement.
  7. If it is necessary to leave the paved surface for safety reasons, drive onto the grass/dirt after you are able to bring the vehicle’s speed down to 5mph or less.

References:

Tire Rack (.com) – http://www.tirerack.com/tires/tiretech/techpage.jsp?techid=13

Who Can I Sue (.com) – http://tire-blow-out.whocanisue.com/

Wikipedia – Blowout – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blowout_(tire)

Synthetic Drugs (Spice, K2, Bath Salts) and Florida Law

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From 2011 through early 2013, Florida has witnessed an increasing amount of stories and reports about synthetic drugs. For several months, many of these chemically engineered substances were sold in gas stations and corner convenience stores. Small plastic packets with graphics attractive to young people were used to promote the substances known as Spice (or K2) and various forms of bath salts.

Spice (K2) is a synthetic cannaboid, designed to mimic the euphoric effects of smoking marijuana. The substance itself can be similar in appearance to marijuana plant pieces and stems. Bath salts are often white/off-white powders or granules. Bath salts have been alleged to substitute the highs associated with cocaine or crystal meth use. The term “bath salt” is only a ploy and has nothing to do with the product’s intended use.

Complications and Disastrous Side Effects

Until quite recently, most variants of spice and bath salts were legal to sell openly, even to minors in some cases. However, experimentation with the once-legal substances may cause life-threatening results. Both types of synthetic drugs are manufactured in unregulated overseas laboratories. The potential side effects of spice and bath salts have been found to be much more severe than those associated with the known drugs they impersonate. The body’s heart rate increases, severe hallucinations result, and users have complained they are “dying” or “coming apart from the inside”

A 2011 ABC news story revealed emergency room accounts treating users:

“Bath salts have been linked to 2,500 calls to poison control centers nationwide, and can produce paranoia, hallucinations and rapid increase in heart rate and body. Washington state authorities are investigating whether a soldier who shot and killed his wife and then himself during a high-speed car chase in April was using bath salts.”

As of late 2012, more than 20 people have died in Florida from the use of bath salts. Since 2010, more than 11,000 emergency room visits nationwide involved the use of a synthetic cannaboid. An early known case involved a 23-year-old Tampa man, Jairious McGhee, who died of a total tissue breakdown produced by a 105-degree body temperature – all after attempting to fight off police and medics in a psychotic rage.

Florida Legislation Enacted to Ban Synthetic Drugs

Beginning in 2011, Florida legislators and the state attorney general began outlawing groups of synthetic drugs, adding them to Schedule I of the controlled substance statute. Overseas laboratories have since continued to alter chemical compounds just enough to skirt state law and allow for legal sale. Currently, no federal law exists to ban the sale or use of spice or bath salts.

In April of 2013, the Florida HOR passed a bill banning a total of 27 variants of synthetic drugs. This step follows Attorney General Pam Bondi’s 2011 emergency order which banned the substances, but remained temporary. Since the AG’s order was enacted, hundreds of arrests have been made throughout the state and even more convenience stores and other retailers have been shut down for continuing to sell synthetic drugs. Under current law, selling these substances is a third-degree felony. Governor Rick Scott approved the bill (SB 294), signing it into state law on April 24, 2013. With the law now in effect, any store who sells these items could be held liable for any injuries that result from the product’s use.

References:

FDLE Pamphlet – http://myfloridalegal.com/webfiles.nsf/WF/RMAS-98NQB3/$file/Synthetic-Drug-Informational-Pamphlet.pdf

SB 294 – http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2013/0294

Tampa Bay Times – http://www.tampabay.com/news/publicsafety/as-florida-bath-salts-deaths-rise-drug-enforcers-stymied/1256057

ABC News – http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/bath-salts-killed-florida-man-authorities/story?id=13746152