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Jury Returns $5.6 Million Verdict Against Goodyear In RV Crash

NEW PORT RICHEY, Fla., June 29 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A Pasco County Circuit Court jury Friday afternoon returned a $5.6 million verdict against the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company for selling a defective tire that had been marketed to recreational motor home manufacturers, even though the tire was not suitable for RV use.

The tire, a Goodyear G159, was original equipment on a 2000 American Tradition motor home that crashed on August 11, 2004, seriously injuring the driver and two passengers.  Driver John Schalmo was heading westbound on State Road 8 in Chipley, when the right-front tire of his motor home suffered a catastrophic tread separation. Schalmo lost control of the RV and veered off the right side of the roadway, heading out of control across an exit ramp and into a line of trees.

Schalmo, and his wife's parents William and Ruth McClintock, were seriously injured.  William McClintock lost both legs as a result of the crash; he died of unrelated causes two years before the trial.  

Attorneys Christopher Roberts and Hugh Smith, of Smith, Fuller & Roberts, a Tampa Bay firm specializing in tire litigation, presented evidence that Goodyear had marketed the G159 to the RV industry for nearly a decade in the 1990s and 2000s, even though Goodyear knew it was dangerous for those vehicles. The G159 was originally designed for urban delivery vehicles and speed-rated for only 65 mile per hour continuous use.  In 1998, Goodyear increased the speed rating to 75 miles per hour, even though the tire design was prone to overheat on RVs that typically travel at those speeds for extended periods.  The speed rating change allowed Goodyear to continue selling the tire to the RV market after speed limits increased nationwide.  

Excessive heat in a tire will break down its internal components over time, and is a leading cause of tread belt detachment failures, as typified by the Schalmo crash. During the course of the trial, Roberts and Smith presented Goodyear documents including internal heat and speed testing and failure rate data that Roberts and Smith argued showed that Goodyear knew the G159 was improperly approved for 75 mph continuous highway use.

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