Seven months after Michael Cowen of The Cowen Law Group requested a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration investigation into defective Chinese-made tires distributed by the Hercules Tire & Rubber Company, the tire importer announced today it will recall seven sizes of certain All Trac A/T SUV tires.
In its recall announcement to NHTSA, Hercules said it had not found an increase in warranty adjustments for its SUV tires, however it conceded that the tire model and sizes Cowen identified were similar to those manufactured by the Shandong Yongsheng Rubber Group Co., Ltd. which were recalled by a different U.S. distributor in October. Hercules, a marketer of replacement tires, headquartered in Findlay, Ohio and a partner of the Cooper Rubber & Tire Company, said it was recalling the tires "out of an abundance of caution." The company did not identify the size of the recall population, but it includes All Trac SUV tires manufactured between July 2008 and May 2010.
"We are extremely pleased NHTSA acted on our request expeditiously and Hercules has recalled these dangerous tires," said Cowen of the Texas law firm. "This is a victory for consumers, and regardless of Hercules' warranty claim rates, we know taking these tires off the road will prevent crashes and save lives."
On December 17, Cowen contacted NHTSA on behalf of his client Krystal Cantu, who suffered a permanent injury in a crash caused by a catastrophic tread separation. On August 2, 2013, Cantu was a front-seat, belted passenger in a 2004 Ford Explorer Sport Trac, when the left-rear Capitol Precision Trac II tire failed as the vehicle traveled on Interstate 37 in Atascosa County, Texas. The driver lost control and Ms. Cantu's right arm was crushed in the subsequent rollover, resulting in an above-the-elbow amputation. The crash led ITG Voma to recall 94,890 Capitol Precision Trac II tires manufactured between December 2008 and May 2010 for tires lacking a nylon cap ply, which made the tires less robust and prone to tread separations.
During the discovery phase of Cantu's April 2014 lawsuit against Voma and the Yongsheng Rubber Co., a manufacturer's representative revealed the Capitol Precision Trac II shared a common green tire designation with another tire branded as the Hercules Radial A/T in eight different sizes. NHTSA defines common green tires as "tires that are produced to the same internal specifications but that have, or may have, different external characteristics and may be sold under different tire line names."
On March 10, the agency opened Equipment Query 15-001 to investigate Cowen's allegations, and asked the tire importer to explain to what extent Hercules tires have the same specifications as the tires ITG Voma recalled, and "why Hercules has not yet made a defect decision and/or decided to conduct a recall of those tires." The agency also asked the importer to explain why it did not include these tires in a February 2013 recall for seven 10-ply Load Range E tires in the All Trac A/T tire line sold for commercial use on light-duty trucks. These tires were also manufactured by the Shandong Yongsheng Rubber Co., but they were not the same size or load range, as the Capitol Precision Trac. Hercules said in its defect report to NHTSA that the tires could experience in-service belt and tread separations. In its chronology outlining its discovery of the defect, Hercules said in September 2012, it was sued over a defect in a tire manufactured by the Chinese company, and those tires had a higher than usual adjustment rate.
In its replies to NHTSA, Hercules said it could not say whether the Voma ITG Capitol Precision Trac II and the Hercules All Trac A/T shared a common green tire designation, because it does not build tires. It cited the lack of warranty claims as the reason it did not initially recall the SUV tires.
"This milestone is important to our office and Krystal," said attorney Michael Cowen. "We have worked hard to see these tires recalled, so today is a great success in our continued efforts to seek justice and protect the public."