Joey Crane, 20, and his brother Bobby, 17, were driving from Danville, California, to Los Angeles in the family’s SUV for a vacation at the beach. Suddenly the tread peeled off the right rear tire. Joey lost control of the vehicle. It rolled over and Bobby was killed. The official report concluded that the tread came off the tire because the tire was under-inflated. But Joey claimed he had put air in the tires right before the trip.
We determined that the tire only had 2000 miles on it and had been fully inflated when the accident took place. It was the accident itself that had caused the tire to lose pressure. We also learned that, that though the tire looked almost new, the tire was actually 14 years old. We found research indicating that tires oxidize over time and that, after six years, tires are unsafe and prone to detreading, regardless of how few miles they’ve accumulated.
We filed suit against Firestone on behalf of the Crane family, alleging that the company should have warned customers about the dangers of old tires. Firestone insisted that old tires were safe as long as they were in good condition. But we uncovered internal Firestone documents proving that company management had known about problems with older tires since the 1970s. Firestone had never warned the public because it wanted to continue its practice of warehousing tires for years before selling them. Firestone wanted to avoid the losses involved in destroying “stale” inventory.
Firestone agreed to a confidential settlement days before the trial was to begin.
The evidence we found attracted national media attention. Manufacturers now warn consumers to check the date of tire manufacture and to discard any tires that are more than six years old, no matter what their apparent condition.