New Federal Investigation of Goodyear's RV Tires Could Lead to Criminal Probe
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has received allegations that Goodyear motor home tires caused crashes that killed or injured 95 people during the last 20 years. According to an Associated Press news report, the allegations were revealed in an information-seeking letter dated April 3 that was sent to Goodyear by NHTSA. The agency launched a probe into the company’s G159 tires last year after a judge ordered the release of Goodyear data that had been sealed under court orders and settlement agreements.
Crucial Information Kept Secret
Lawsuits and safety advocates allege the tires were not designed not for recreational vehicles and motor homes traveling at highway speeds, but for delivery trucks. They say Goodyear kept its tire problems quiet for many years by settling cases and getting courts to seal records. So, in spite of the allegations and lawsuits, information about these defective tires has remained largely secret. And the tires have not been recalled.
NHTSA’s investigation covers about 40,000 tires manufactured between 1996 and 2003. The NHTSA letter says the tires resulted in two fatalities or injury claims in 1998; four in 1999; six in 2000; eight in 2001; 18 in 2002; and 57 more between 2003 and 2015. The letter did not talk about how many of these claims involved fatalities and how many injured severe or minor injuries.
Goodyear has continued to oppose efforts by the Center for Auto Safety and Public Justice to have these records released to the public. An Arizona judge has ruled in favor of the center unsealing a majority of the information. But that has been delayed because Goodyear has once again appealed that decision. The judge said in his ruling that Goodyear’s need to keep this information confidential does not even come close to outweighing the public’s need for access.
The information, he said, primarily concerns the tire’s design, its testing and the decision to market it for motor homes. The judge said this information should certainly be public because it “relates to and reveals a substantial potential risk to public health or safety.”
Consumers Have a Right to Know
As auto defect lawyers, we strongly believe that this type of information that could and does affect consumer safety must be made public. This information has nothing to do with protecting a corporation’s business or trade secrets. But, it has everything to do with ensuring that dangerous and defective autos are taken off the roadways. Had Goodyear revealed this information to consumers two decades ago, lives could have been saved and injuries, prevented. We hope NHTSA conducts a comprehensive investigation and holds Goodyear accountable for any failure to report safety or design defects in a timely manner.