By Denna Bowman
Cooper tyres are appealing a court ruling that their tyres were responsible for a fatal minivan crash in 2007.
The second-biggest US tyres manufacturer was ordered to pay massive compensation awards to the survivors of the accident and family of the victim by a jury in Des Moines, Iowa.
The jurors found that the tyre fitted to the 1997 Chrysler minivan was not state of the art when it was designed and manufactured.
They awarded $28.4 million to Ivon Toe, a 39-year-old woman rendered quadriplegic in the accident. Her two children received a total of $65,000.
The estate of Assata Karlar, 28, who was killed in the accident, received $649,000. Her husband, Gaye, was awarded $420,000, and their five children received a combined total of more than $1 million.
Wesley Todd, a lawyer for the plaintiffs’, said: “I really hope this sends a message to Cooper about these cases.
“I hope they’ll change their philosophy at the corporate level in how they make their tyres instead of defending them.”
Cooper was also assessed punitive damages of $1.5 million for a total liability of more than $32.8 million. Included were damages for the other four people riding in the van when it rolled over, the spouse of one of those passengers and that couple’s three children.
A spokesman for Cooper said: “We have deep sympathy for those involved and wish to express our sincere condolences to the individuals and families impacted by this accident.”
Cooper disputed the verdict and is set to appeal the decision.
While attorneys for van passengers and their families argued that the tyre was defective, lawyers for the company countered that the tyre was old, worn and damaged before the accident.
In his March 15 closing, defense lawyer Terrance M. Miller also said the driver of the van, Alfred Lang, was driving too fast and that his hard braking in reaction to the tread separation exacerbated it.
In its statement, the tyre company said its products, including the tyre involved in the case, “are safe and reliable, exceeding not only all government standards but also our own, more rigorous, internal standards.”
It argued that the tyre on the 1997 Plymouth Grand Voyager minivan owned by plaintiff Achol Deng Maiwen, had been punctured by a nail that was still in the tyre at the time of the accident.
“The tyre suffered from long-term underinflated operation and had been damaged by a road hazard impact,” Cooper Tyre said, adding “this tyre was not defective and that plaintiffs did not prove that any tyre defect caused this accident.”