Deal v. Michelin North America, Inc.

Apr 21, 2009 – United States District Court, Las Vegas, NV

After a five week trial, it took a Clark County jury less than two hours to return a defense verdict exonerating Michelin North America, Inc. in a lawsuit alleging design and manufacturing defects in a BF Goodrich All Terrain T/A tire.  The jury determined that the BF Goodrich All Terrain T/A tire, manufactured by Michelin North America, Inc. in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, was completely free of any defect.

The lawsuit arose out of a single-vehicle accident that occurred on September 27, 2002 when Lonnie Lee Deal was driving his 1977 Ford Ranger near St. George, Utah.  At the time of the accident, Lonnie Lee Deal was driving his father Richard Deal and his son Trystin Deal to Duck Creek, Utah to go camping.  Lonnie Lee Deal and his father Richard Deal sustained fatal injuries after being ejected from the Ranger.  Neither Richard or Lonnie Lee Deal was wearing a seatbelt at the time of the accident.  However, Nevada law prevented this fact from being presented to the jury. 

Lonnie Lee's son Trystin was in a child-seat during the accident and was found at the scene with relatively minor injuries.

At trial, the plaintiffs presented Troy Cottles as their forensic tire expert.  Mr. Cottles opined that when the tire was made in 1996, it contained a flaw in its inner liner and that it was not properly cured.  The jury rejected Mr. Cottles' contentions.  Further, jurors commented that Mr. Yukevich's cross-examination of Mr. Cottles convinced them that his opinions were not supported by adequate research or testing. 

During the trial, Michelin’s independent expert, Glenn D. Follen of San Antonio, Texas, presented evidence that the tire in question failed due to impact damage that occurred thousands of miles before the accident.  In addition, Mr. Follen testified that the subject tire had weakened as a result of being run underinflated and that it was subjected to severe abuse prior to the accident.  Further, Mr. Follen offered evidence that there was no manufacturing defect in the subject tire at any time.

During closing arguments, plaintiffs' counsel implored the jury to award more than $10,000,000 in economic damages and unspecified millions for emotional distress.

The jury's verdict followed a five-week trial in which Michelin's lead trial counsel, James J. Yukevich, of Los Angeles litigation firm Yukevich | Cavanaugh conclusively established that the BF Goodrich tire was free from any defects.  Mr. Yukevich commented that "this is a particularly momentous decision given that Las Vegas is such a hostile jurisdiction for corporate defendants." 

Clark County, Nevada is listed on the American Tort Reform Foundation's list of top "Judicial Hellholes 2008/2009."