A 55-year old husband and father was operating his SUV on I-95 in Central Florida when the right rear tire suffered a tread and outer steel belt separation that caused the tire to blow out, ultimately resulting in him losing control of the vehicle. The four-door SUV entered the median and rolled over multiple times before landing on its roof.
Although the driver of the vehicle was properly seat belted, the roof structure over his seated position crushed downward and inward causing extensive head injury and cervical spine fractures. The driver died at the hospital from a cardiac arrest attributed to massive traumatic spinal damage and brain injury inflicted by the collapsing roof.
Attorneys W. Hampton Keen and David C. Prather brought product defect claims against the designer and manufacturer of the tire, as well as the designer and manufacturer of the SUV. The tire claims were based on the lack of nylon overlays in the tire, a well-known separation countermeasure. The claims against the vehicle centered on the design of the vehicle's suspension that rendered it uncontrollable in the event of a rear tire separation, coupled with the lack of rollover occupant survival space protection due to the weak roof structures.
Keen and Prather achieved confidential settlements from both the tire and SUV manufacturer before trial started.