Elwood Breaux Jr. was working for Plaquemines Parish when the “zipper failure” occurred, the name for a long sidewall rip with protruding metal reinforcement. With air escaping from the tire, Breaux was thrown backward and severely injured. He died 28 days after this occurrence on Feb. 5, 2014 of massive internal injuries to his chest and abdomen caused by the exploded tire. This case was tried before a judge in the Louisiana state district court.
The judge calculated damages to Breaux, his five children and his wife, at $6.7 million, saying about $481,000 of that will reimburse the parish for the workers’ compensation lien.
Louisiana state law will return some of that to the family’s share and judicial interest or add at least $1.4 million to the total. Attorney Danny Meeks represented the Breaux family in this tragic case.
In the court’s ruling, it was stated that the tire maker, Goodyear, chose not to adequately warn the parish that an under-pressurized tire might explode during inflation.
The judge wrote that warnings about the possibility of serious injury from the tire failure were embossed on the tire in the same color as the tire and also were written on the back of the invoices sent to the parish in a warranty brochure.
However, the judge found that those warnings were inadequate, noting that an expert witness in human factors engineering and warnings testified at trial that they didn’t advise “that a tire would blow up by simply being aired up.”
That same expert also testified that the warnings “did not tell a user what a zipper failure was, what caused it, how to avoid it or how to avoid being injured.”
Rather, the expert testified for the Breaux family that warnings would be read as saying under-inflated or overloaded tires might fail on the road. The opinion said that was how the parish’s superintendent of Solid Waste North Department testified and interpreted the warnings.
Zipper failure lawsuits are fairly rare, said Skip Lynch, another attorney for the Breaux family. He said his firm in Ocala, Fla., files 20-35 tire-related lawsuits a year and the last one involved in this sort of explosion was decided 6 to 8 years ago.
Breaux’s department foreman and coworker both testified that they had never heard of a zipper failure. In addition, the court’s order stated that the manager and service manager at the store that sold the tires testified that they never heard of zipper failures and had not seen a Goodyear product service bulletin that described them and provided instructions on how to avoid them.
The judge, in calculating damages for Breaux, set those damages at more than $1.5 million, including $400,000 for pain and suffering. Despite heavy sedation, a treating surgeon testified that Breaux could move, grunt or groan when asked about pain and had to be “kept in restraints to keep him from pulling out the devices to which he had been hooked up.”
Breaux’s wife, Irene, was awarded $1.5 million, including $1 million for mental anguish, grief, and anxiety. The couple’s three children were awarded $800,000 each and Breaux’s adult daughters by his first wife received $300,000 each.
Elwood Breaux Jr. v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., et al., 2:2015-CV-00837 (Eastern District of Louisiana).
Kreisman Law Offices has been handling product liability lawsuits, wrongful death cases, truck accident lawsuits and construction work injury lawsuits] for individuals, families and loved ones who have been injured, harmed or killed by the carelessness or negligence of another for more than 40 years in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including Warrenville, New Lenox, Long Grove, Winnetka, Vernon Hills, Buffalo Grove, Arlington Heights, Orland Park, Worth, Blue Island, South Holland, Chicago (Wicker Park, Logan Square, Lakeview, North Lawndale, River North, Old Town, Wrigleyville, Hyde Park, Chinatown), Inverness, Naperville, Tinley Park, Elmhurst, Rolling Meadows and Deerfield, Ill.
Robert D. Kreisman has been an active member of the Illinois and Missouri bars since 1976.
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