Though a February vote by the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) determined the nation’s domestic truck and bus tire industry has not suffered material injury due to Chinese imports, consumers are being harmed. Design defects in tires imported from foreign countries, particularly China, are injuring American drivers.
As more and more of the products we buy, including tires, are being made in China and other foreign countries, the “importers” role is becoming more critical. In too many instances, importers are not taking the appropriate steps to assure that foreign makers’ tires are safe – despite the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) standards requiring them to do so – with life-altering or life-ending consequences. For example, Beasley Allen has handled several cases involving Chinese tire manufacturers, including an ongoing wrongful death action against a defective heavy truck tire.
Under federal law, importers must take steps to assure that the tires they import are free of defects. Good manufacturing processes require importers to conduct on-site inspection(s) of a foreign tire maker’s facilities to assure that adequate testing, manufacturing, quality control and other measures are in place.
Quite simply, once foreign tires are imported into the U.S., importers should perform random sampling, testing and inspection before they distribute and/or sell the tires to American consumers. But that rarely seems to be the reality.
In one of our recent cases, we learned that, while a company was importing more than 400,000 tires a month, it was doing nothing to insure that the Chinese tires it imported, sold and profited from were safe. The importer never inspected the manufacturing plant, never observed any tire testing and never checked to see if the Chinese manufacturer employed any quality control measures for its tires and plants. The importer also never performed one post-import inspection, test and/or took any other step relative to one single tire it sold – despite the federal requirements to do so.
This conduct is particularly troubling when you consider how important tires are to our safety. For many of us, vehicles are our main form of transportation to and from work, school and the grocery store, meaning daily life hinges on vehicles working properly and being safe. Companies that import tires – or any product for that matter – should be held accountable when they do nothing to insure their products are safe for American consumers.
Our lawyers have handled numerous claims against both tire manufacturers and importers of defective Chinese tires that demonstrate the high costs when companies fail to value consumer safety over profit.
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Ben Baker, a lawyer in our Personal Injury / Products Liability Section, is experienced in handling claims involving tire failure. For more information, contact him at Ben.Baker@beasleyallen.com or call 800-898-2034. Ben also recently wrote a book, Tire Litigation: A Primer, which is available free to lawyers. To order your copy or download a digital copy, visit our Publications page.