Survivors of a North Carolina church bus crash joined family members of those killed in a lawsuit against the manufacturer of the tire that is alleged to have caused the crash and the estate of the bus driver, who was also killed.
The lawsuit, filed last week in Iredell County Superior Court, alleges that Hankook Tire Co., which made the front left tire that blew out and caused the driver to lose control, is to blame because it “knew or should have known … that the subject tire’s design and/or manufacture resulted in a defective product which exposed vehicle occupants and other motorists to unreasonable danger when the product was put to it reasonably foreseeable use.”
The Oct. 2, 2013, crash killed six members of Front Street Baptist Church in Statesville, N.C., the driver, Randy Morrison, and a passenger in an SUV that the bus struck after it careened across an I-40 median into oncoming traffic.
The bus was returning to Statesville from Gatlinburg, Tenn., where the church group had attended a religious gathering. The bus was traveling eastbound on I-40 when the tire blowout and subsequent crash occurred near Knoxville, Tenn.
Randy Massingill, a Tennessee State Trooper who investigated the crash, said that the blowout was the result of a “break and separation” failure in the tire – a flaw that occurs when a bubble forms between the liner and the inner steel belt. A blowout occurs when the air within the tire grows gradually hotter, causing the separation to grow to the point of a blowout.
According to WBIR, the lawsuit focuses on blaming Hankook Tires, and “It appears that [the driver] was included in the suit to prevent the company from laying the blame on the driver.”
“Plaintiffs believe that the Hankook Defendants will contend in this case, as they do in virtually every case, that Randy Morrison breached his duty to exercise reasonable care by negligently operating and/or maintaining the church bus and the subject tire,” the lawsuit states.
Church buses usually are not bound to the same federal and state safety rules and regulations as commercial passenger buses, so it is not clear how frequently Front Street Baptist Church inspected and performed maintenance work on its bus. The plaintiffs have not named their church as a defendant in the lawsuit.
According to the lawsuit, Hankook manufactured the culprit tire in the spring of 2008 and its actions in producing and selling the allegedly defective tire were “fraudulent, malicious, willful and/or wanton.”
The plaintiffs seek damages for medical costs, continual care and pain, suffering, and emotional distress stemming from the crash. They also seek punitive damages in excess of $10,000 per person and have asked for a jury trial.