DETROIT (AP) — A federal grand jury in Los Angeles is gathering proof in a felony investigation of Goodyear leisure automobile tires that the federal government blames for crashes that killed eight folks and injured dozens of others.
The grand jury has subpoenaed Arizona lawyer David Kurtz in search of all paperwork and deposition transcripts in a lawsuit he filed in opposition to the Akron, Ohio, tire maker.
A letter accompanying the Jan. 4 subpoena says it was issued in an “official criminal investigation being conducted by the Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General.” It additionally says the Justice Division’s Shopper Safety Department in Washington is concerned, in addition to the U.S. Legal professional in Los Angeles.
Paperwork from Kurtz’s lawsuit touched off a 2017 investigation of the tires by the Nationwide Freeway Site visitors Security Administration that resulted in a recall final yr. The paperwork additionally revealed Goodyear knew the G159 RV tire may fail and trigger extreme crashes, but it didn’t recall them for as many as 20 years.
The Justice Division and the DOT Inspector Common wouldn’t touch upon the probe.
In a press release, Goodyear didn’t handle the federal investigation however maintained there’s no security defect with the tires. The corporate mentioned it recalled the tires to handle dangers that occur when they’re underinflated or overloaded.
“This tire hasn’t been made since 2003,” the assertion mentioned, including that “it consistently met Goodyear’s demanding safety standards.”
Kurtz confirmed that he obtained the subpoena and offered copies of it and the accompanying letter. He mentioned Thursday he intends to conform and produce about 200,000 paperwork he gathered from suing Goodyear.
The DOT Inspector Common says on its web site its brokers have federal legislation enforcement authority to conduct felony investigations, together with the power to make arrests, execute search warrants and carry firearms. “Where appropriate, we make referrals for prosecution to the Department of Justice or state and local prosecuting authorities,” the workplace mentioned in a press release.
It’s not clear precisely what the grand jury is investigating. However in a letter to Goodyear in search of the recall final yr, NHTSA mentioned the corporate ought to have recalled the tires inside 5 working days of changing into conscious of a defect, which it apparently knew of as early as 2002.
“The safety-related defect is a clear, identified failure that leads to a loss of vehicle control, causing crashes and potentially catastrophic consequences such as death and serious injury,” NHTSA wrote within the letter.
Paperwork from the protection company say the tire tread can separate from the physique, inflicting drivers to lose management and growing the chance of a crash.
Goodyear wouldn’t recall the tires whilst late as March of final yr, regardless of investigators discovering that their failure prompted crashes that killed eight folks and injured 69 others from 1998 by means of 2009.
NHTSA made the allegations in opposition to Goodyear in a February 2022 letter despatched to the corporate in search of a recall of twenty-two.5-inch-diameter G159 tires.
Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. responded to the company in a March 8 letter refusing to do a recall, however later it determined to conduct one, in keeping with NHTSA paperwork.
NHTSA had threatened a public listening to and courtroom motion if the tires weren’t recalled. Goodyear then agreed to recall about 173,000 tires.
In its response letter, Goodyear maintained that the tires have been rigorously examined and totally certified to function at freeway speeds. “No subject tire inspected by Goodyear engineers ever revealed or even suggested a defect of any kind,” the corporate wrote.
NHTSA offered an in depth timeline of what Goodyear knew when, based mostly on an investigation into the tires that started in 2017. It additionally mentioned the corporate routinely settled lawsuits and acquired judges to seal the data, retaining it from NHTSA and different plaintiffs’ legal professionals.
“NHTSA was not alerted to the extraordinary failure rate of the subject tires” till paperwork have been launched in an Arizona case in 2017, the letter mentioned.
After the recall was introduced, NHTSA, which is a part of the Transportation Division, mentioned it was closing its investigation however reserved the precise to take additional motion as warranted.
Goodyear has mentioned few if any of the tires are nonetheless in use. As of Jan. 13, the corporate had changed solely 13 of the tires, in keeping with NHTSA paperwork.
Information of the investigation was reported Wednesday by The Wall Road Journal.
Kurtz mentioned he’s pleased that the federal government appears to be shifting on the investigation.
“Better late than never,” he mentioned.
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