Auto safety advocates are heaping pressure on federal authorities to divulge documents relating to Goodyear’s G159 tire, which has been linked to hundreds of tire-blowout crashes involving motorhomes, causing dozens of injuries and deaths.
According to Arizona’s The Republic, the Center for Auto Safety, the nation’s leading auto safety advocacy group, has filed a request to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) under the Freedom of Information Act seeking death and injury claim information, tire-testing results, and other information concerning the Goodyear tires.
Litigation involving Goodyear’s G159 tires has been ongoing for years, but the manufacturer’s lawyers successfully lobbied the courts to have records from about 600 complaints and 40 court cases sealed and withheld from the public. Corporations often hid such information by arguing it contains trade secrets that must be kept out of competitors’ hands.
Much of that information is contained in an Arizona case involving a 2003 Goodyear tire blowout and rollover crash near Tucson that injured several members of the Haeger family. According to The Republic, that case, which has been in litigation for more than a decade, produced federal court records that show Goodyear lawyers repeatedly withheld evidence, made misleading statements to the judge, and had information sealed that effectively hid the G159 tire’s defect from the public.
In other cases, Goodyear lawyers have concealed evidence, stonewalled plaintiffs, and employed a number of other tactics to keep the tire’s purported defects under wraps.
According to The Republic, the Haeger family’s lawyer got court approval last year to divulge key data to NHTSA, which has investigated some of the crashes involving the Goodyear tires. Then, on Dec. 28, NHTSA officials “launched a review based on evidence that G159 blowouts ‘may stem from a safety-related defect.’”
Goodyear produced the G159 from 1996 to 2003, but the tires were sold and used on the roads for years after. The tires were initially intended and designed for urban delivery trucks and not for fast highway travel that promotes overheating and tread separations.
Because most motorhomes and other recreational vehicles travel only occasionally, safety advocates are concerned there may be G159 tires still in use.
According to the Haeger lawsuit, the G159s are 15 times more likely to blow out than the Firestone tires that were recalled years ago due to deadly safety defects.
The Haeger family’s lawyer says NHTSA is now “the sole gatekeeper” of information concerning the G159’s defects, yet the agency is keeping these records confidential. In a letter to the NHTSA, the Haeger’s lawyer also alleges Goodyear made “knowingly false” assertions while convincing NHTSA to keep records sealed, The Republic reported.