Trials & Litigation
Recall Stalls Despite Tire Defect Suits
Posted Jun 26, 2007 2:52 PM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss
A tire distributor has sued a Chinese tire maker alleging it eliminated a safety feature without notification.
But the tires are still on vehicles, even after a fatal accident allegedly caused by the missing feature. The Wall Street Journal (sub. req.) says the case highlights problems with the effectiveness of recall regulations for foreign tires.
The distributor, Foreign Tire Sales Inc. of Union, N.J., claims the tire manufacturer eliminated a gum strip that helps prevent tire separation. As many as 450,000 tires sold under the brand names Westlake, Telluride, Compass and YKS could be defective, the company says. FTS filed suit in federal court in Newark, N.J.
FTS learned of the defect following the fatal accident last year. A lawsuit filed in Philadelphia seeks damages for the deaths of two men and the injury of another in the mishap. FTS notified the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration about the problem earlier this month.
The NHTSA says the tire distributor has the duty to recall the tires. But FTS says it’s the responsibility of tire maker Hangzhou Zhongce Rubber Co. It says it can’t even perform a recall because the Chinese company has not provided identification numbers for the defective tires.
A spokesman for Hangzhou Zhongce it is confident of its tire quality and the suit is just a commercial dispute.
FTS lawyer Lawrence Lavigne doesn’t agree. "Sooner or later there'll be a recall on these tires,” he told the newspaper. “The $64 million question is who pays for it."