CVN screenshot of plaintiff attorney William Applegate delivering his opening statement. Click here to see video from the trial.
St. George, SC - A South Carolina state court jury heard opening statements Monday in a products liability lawsuit over claims a supposedly defective Michelin motorcycle tire caused a blowout accident that left a husband paralyzed and his wife suffering from serious injuries.
Plaintiffs Ron and Rose Nash sued Michelin North America Inc. following a 2017 accident, when they were both thrown from Ron’s Kawasaki Vulcan Nomad 1700 motorcycle after a rear tire failure.
The Nash’s attorneys blame the accident on an alleged manufacturing defect in the Michelin Commander II tire mounted on the rear of the bike, but Michelin maintains the crash resulted from the tire being under-inflated and not properly maintained.
The full trial is being webcast and recorded gavel-to-gavel by Courtroom View Network.
During his opening statement on behalf of the plaintiffs, attorney William Applegate of Yarborough Applegate blamed the crash on a manufacturing defect known as an “open inner liner splice,” which he says occurs when the various layers in the tire aren’t properly fused together, which can cause a leak in the tire’s air membrane.
Applegate accused Michelin of failing to inspect the tire after importing it from a factory in Thailand with supposedly known quality control issues.
“Had the tire not failed we would not be here today,” he said, according to CVN’s webcast of the proceedings.
Applegate argued that Ron took all reasonable steps to maintain the tire, and he preemptively attacked the defense argument that despite the blowout Ron could have still maintained some control over the bike.
“The idea that after a blowout at 50 miles per hour, that they just pull over nicely, calmly, put the kickstand down and then ponder what to do is ridiculous,” he said.
Applegate told the jury he would seek more than $17 million in economic damages at the end of the trial, detailing Ron’s arduous record of hospitalizations since the accident and the burden for Rose of providing 24-hour care while herself recovering from her own serious injuries.
Applegate didn’t specify the amount of non-economic damages he would seek, but he did tell jurors it would be a “much bigger number.”
Representing Michelin, Michael O’Donnell of the Colorado-based firm Wheeler Trigg O'Donnell began his opening statement by urging jurors not to let understandable sympathy for the plaintiffs influence their decision.
“This case is about facts and science, not sympathy,” O’Donnell said.
CVN screenshot of defense attorney Michael O'Donnell delivering his opening statement.
O'Donnell insisted the tire in question did not have a manufacturing defect and underwent adequate safety inspections, and that the blowout occurred because of damage caused by chronic under-inflation.
O’Donnell told jurors the supposed lack of adequate air pressure caused stress on other elements of the tire that no manufacturer could possibly build them to withstand.
“This was a damaged tire, not a defective one,” he said.
The trial before Judge Maite Murphy is expected to last roughly a week, and gavel-to-gavel video of the full proceedings will be available to CVN subscribers.
Besides the current South Carolina trial, CVN’s online trial video archive includes numerous automotive product liability trials from across the United States, most recently in July in California at a trial involving a Kia seatbelt.
Check out these 10 “must watch” automotive product liability trials in CVN’s video archive, and get unlimited on-demand access to those and hundreds more trials by becoming a CVN subscriber today.
The South Carolina case is taking place before Judge Maite Murphy.
The case is captioned Ronald and Rose Nash v. Michelin North America Inc., case number 2019-CP-18-00080 in the South Carolina Court of Common Pleas, First Judicial Circuit.
E-mail David Siegel at firstname.lastname@example.org