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Tire maker defeats multi-million-dollar products liability suit 

A Dorchester County jury has found a tire maker not liable for the injuries suffered by a couple that was seriously hurt in a 2017 motorcycle crash after one of their tires blew and was seeking at least $17 million in damages from the company.

Ronald and Rose Nash were traveling on Highway 78 in rural Dorchester County when the Michelin tire on their Kawasaki motorcycle suddenly blew. Ronald was permanently paralyzed, and Rose suffered multiple injuries including a crushed arm, broken ribs, disc injuries. She now suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, her attorneys say.

The Nashes alleged that the tire, purchased in 2013, was manufactured with a defective interliner, which can cause separation of the tread from the belts, weakening the entire tire. One of their attorneys, William Applegate of Yarborough Applegate in Charleston, said that the Nashes contended that there was clear evidence of a manufacturing defect, and discovery uncovered internal documents from Michelin that showed that the problem existed in other tires.

Michael O’Donnell, Edward Stewart, and Shawn Neal of Wheeler Trigg O’Donnell in Denver, Colorado, and Christopher Daniels of Nelson Mullins in Columbia represented Michelin.

O’Donnell said that Michelin was able to refute the Nashes’ argument that a defective interliner splice allowed air to escape from the tire, and the company doesn’t believe that a separated splice was to blame for the crash, but if it was, it was only due to improper inflation and maintenance.

“We believe Mr. Nash was running the tire at low pressure, which can cause the splice to separate,” O’Donnell said. “But our main thing was that it was a damaged tire, not a defective tire.”

Applegate said that Michelin also contended that Ronald Nash was overweight and that a defect in the four-year old tire would have manifested sooner.

The jury deliberated approximately four hours before returning its verdict for Michelin on Nov. 18.

A Michelin press release states that the company regrets the “tragic accident” and its effect on the Nashes, but that evidence in the eight-day trial shows that the company is not to blame.

O’Donnell also expressed sympathy and said that he wishes the case could have been settled pre-trial.

“It’s a very sad case … Mrs. Nash was very seriously injured, too, but Mr. Nash is in a wheelchair for the rest of his life,” O’Donnell said. “We do not think that our tire caused the injuries, but we wish them well.”

Applegate said that his clients had sought $17 million in economic loss and an unspecified amount in non-economic damages, and he posed a hypothetical to the jury arguing that even $50 million would not have been sufficient compensation for the injuries they suffered.

Court records show that the Nashes have requested a new trial, arguing, among other things, that the court failed to give a charge consistent with its pretrial ruling that running a tire underinflated or overdeflected is a foreseeable use of a tire. They are also seeking a judgment notwithstanding the verdict, arguing that the only factual issue that the jury should’ve considered on the verdict form was whether the tire contained a manufacturing defect.

“If the tire was, in fact, defective, then that defect was at least a cause of the tire failure and accident,” the motion reads. “The only other alternative would be that the subject tire failed because of underinflation/overdeflection, which the Court previously held was a foreseeable and attendant use of a tire.”

“We feel strongly about the defect in this product and feel that errors were made with regards to the evidence and charges which made plaintiffs burden untenable,” Applegate said.  “The tire was under a six-year warranty and was marketed to last over 20,000 miles. We had a weekend rider and the tire had 8,000 miles on it when it failed.”

Applegate said that claims against North Carolina-based M.R. Cycles, Inc., which sold and installed the tire, were settled last year for $5.5 million.


Amount: $0 (Defense verdict)

Injuries alleged: Paralysis to one plaintiff, and serious injuries to another, including a crushed arm, broken ribs, disc injuries, and post-traumatic stress disorder

Case name: Ronald Nash and Rose Nash v. Michelin North America and M.R. Cycles, Inc.

Court: Dorchester County Circuit Court

Case No.: 2019-CP-18-00080

Date of verdict: Nov. 18

Judge: Maite Murphy

Attorneys for plaintiff: William Applegate, Liam Duffy, and Perry Buckner of Yarborough Applegate in Charleston

Attorneys for defendant: Michael O’Donnell, Edward Stewart, and Shawn Neal of Wheeler Trigg O’Donnell in Denver, Colorado, and Christopher Daniels of Nelson Mullins in Columbia

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