DETROIT (AP) — A federal grand jury in Los Angeles is gathering proof in a prison investigation of Goodyear leisure car tires that the federal government blames for crashes that killed eight individuals and injured dozens of others.
The grand jury has subpoenaed Arizona lawyer David Kurtz looking for all paperwork and deposition transcripts in a lawsuit he filed towards 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 would not touch upon the probe.
In a press release, Goodyear did not deal with the federal investigation, however maintained there is no security defect with the tires. The corporate stated it recalled the tires to handle dangers that occur when they’re underinflated or overloaded.
“This tire hasn’t been made since 2003,” the statement said, adding that “it consistently met Goodyear’s demanding safety standards.”
Kurtz confirmed that he obtained the subpoena and supplied copies of it and the accompanying letter. He stated 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 prison 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 stated in a press release.
It’s not clear precisely what the grand jury is investigating. However in a letter to Goodyear looking for the recall final yr, NHTSA stated 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 rising the chance of a crash.
Goodyear wouldn’t recall the tires at the same time as late as March of final yr, regardless of investigators discovering that their failure triggered crashes that killed eight individuals and injured 69 others from 1998 by way of 2009.
NHTSA made the allegations towards Goodyear in a February 2022 letter despatched to the corporate looking for 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, based on NHTSA paperwork.
NHTSA had threatened a public listening to and court docket 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 had 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, primarily based on an investigation into the tires that started in 2017. It additionally stated the corporate routinely settled lawsuits and obtained judges to seal the data, maintaining it from NHTSA and different plaintiffs’ legal professionals.
“NHTSA was not alerted to the extraordinary failure rate of the subject tires” till paperwork had been launched in an Arizona case in 2017, the letter stated.
After the recall was introduced, NHTSA, which is a part of the Transportation Division, stated it was closing its investigation however reserved the precise to take additional motion as warranted.
Goodyear has stated few if any of the tires are nonetheless in use. As of Jan. 13, the corporate had changed solely 13 of the tires, based on NHTSA paperwork.
Information of the investigation was reported Wednesday by The Wall Avenue Journal.
Kurtz stated he is joyful that the federal government appears to be transferring on the investigation.
“Better late than never,” he stated.