A lawsuit filed by the victims of a deadly church bus crash and their families against Hankook Tire has been settled for an “undisclosed confidential amount” after years of litigation.
The case centered on the Oct. 2, 2013, crash of a Front Street Baptist Church bus in Statesville, North Carolina, that killed six church members, the driver of a tractor-trailer, and a passenger in an SUV. The bus was returning to North Carolina from a yearly Fall Jubilee at the Gatlinburg Convention Center when the left front tire blew out, causing driver Randolph “Randy” Morrison to lose control of the vehicle.
According to Charlotte, North Carolina’s WBTV Channel 3, a Tennessee State Trooper crash report states that the church bus plowed through a wire median barrier in the median of I-40 and veered into oncoming traffic.
The State Trooper report attributed the blowout to a “blunt force impact” on the tire “that weakened its internal structure” and caused it to fail, but plaintiffs’ lawyers disputed that theory.
The lawsuit alleges that Hankook Tire, a Korean company with U.S. headquarters in New Jersey, “defectively designed and manufactured the Hankook tire that catastrophically failed.”
Plaintiffs allege that the Hankook tire, which Front Street Baptist purchased in September 2008, “suffered a sudden, catastrophic, and complete tread/belt separation. The tread/belt separation was caused because the subject Hankook tire, which was manufactured at Hankook’s Geumsan plant in the Republic of Korea, was defective.”
Plaintiffs’ lawyers maintained that the “sole cause” of the deadly church bus accident was defective tire failure. Moreover, they asserted that Hankook failed to warn consumers about “dangerous characteristics” of the tire, even though they “had knowledge of such hazards, risks, and dangers,” according to WBTV.
Plaintiffs also contended in their lawsuit that nobody on the bus felt any sort of impact with “a road hazard” before the deadly crash.
According to WBTV, Hankook Tire and its lawyers blamed the tire blowout and deadly crash on Mr. Morrison, who was a member of the church. Mr. Morrison’s wife Barbara was among those killed in the crash and her estate is one of the plaintiffs in the case.
Mr. Morrison “maintained and operated the bus as his ministry to Front Street Baptist Church,” the plaintiffs’ lawsuit maintained while predicting that Hankook would attempt to blame the deadly accident on him.
“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 alleged.
“The front left defective Hankook tire caused the collisions, the deaths of Plaintiff’s decedents, and serious personal and emotional injuries to the surviving Plaintiffs,” the lawsuit asserted.
According to court documents, before the settlement, plaintiffs had been seeking a default judgment against Hankook Tire for allegedly “concealing crucial evidence for more than two years,” WBTV reported.