Goodyear Asks Judge To Help It Bury Document Showing It Covered Up Tire Problems Related To 98 Injuries Or Deaths

from the walking-around-on-bullet-riddled-feet dept

The Jalopnik expose on tire problems Goodyear buried for 20 years — resulting in nearly 100 injuries or deaths — has led to a really novel request from Goodyear’s counsel. In essence, Goodyear approached the court (via a late evening conference call) and asked it to sternly request Jalopnik not publish damning documents mistakenly unsealed by the court’s clerk.

Here’s Jalopnik’s Ryan Felton, who covered the Goodyear cover-up and obtained the documents from the Arizona court:

Last week, I asked Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. to comment on claims made in a lengthy letter that says the company knew for more than 20 years about failures on a tire linked to hundreds of crashes that have left at least 98 people either injured or killed. I obtained the letter, along with more than 200 pages of exhibits to the letter, from a court in Arizona following a judge’s earlier decision that led the court’s clerk to briefly unseal the records. Goodyear never responded to me. Instead, unbeknownst to us at Jalopnik, the company asked the Arizona judge to call me directly and intone that I should, in the words of Goodyear’s attorney, “do the right thing” and not publish those documents.

The transcript [PDF] of the conversation between Judge Hannah and lawyers from both sides is a fascinating read. Goodyear’s counsel desperately wanted to believe there were no First Amendment implications in ringing up a writer, who obtained documents without subterfuge, to ask him not to publish them.

And there’s good reason Goodyear doesn’t want them published. It contains NHTSA (National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration) data linking certain Goodyear tires to hundreds of motor vehicle accidents. The NHTSA has said the info in the letter is not confidential. Goodyear disagreed, filing a motion to keep the document under seal. No decision has been made on this yet, but apparently a court clerk misunderstood the judge’s instructions and briefly unsealed the document. According to Goodyear’s lawyer Foster Robberson, this makes the judge reaching out to correct a clerk’s error constitutionally-kosher.

So I don’t think this is a First Amendment issue. I don’t think we are asking you at this stage to do an injunction. Frankly, I wouldn’t expect you to do an injunction without some legal support, but we are asking you to do something, which courts do do on occasion, and I’ve given you an example of that, which is to basically admonish or instruct someone involved in the process about what’s going on and I’ve even had courts ask people to cooperate before. I don’t think asking this reporter to cooperate is the same thing as entering an injunction.

Sure, it’s not the same thing as an injunction. But it has the same intended effect. Either way, it’s an attempt to talk a judge into prior restraint, all supported by nothing more than the assertion Goodyear would be “prejudiced” by the document’s release by a non-party. That seems unlikely. The parties to the lawsuit have already seen the document. So has the judge. Nothing prejudicial can happen in this court at this point since the documents have already been filed. The court of public opinion may be swayed against Goodyear, but that’s not where the decision that legally matters will be handed down.

Goodyear’s counsel went even further, claiming that lawfully obtaining documents from a court clerk (as the result of an error not discovered until after the documents were handed over) is “wholly illegitimate.” Judge Hannah, fortunately, disagreed with every single one of Goodyear’s assertions.

Well, alright, Mr. Robberson.

Seems to me that if your view is that there are gonna be consequences for this reporter, if he publishes this information, that’s your job to convey that to him, not mine.

The motion … the request … Goodyear’s request is denied. There are two reasons.

First, it is not an appropriate role for this court to appoint itself as the spokesperson or conveyor of information for the court system concerning this person’s proper response or what the person should do as a result of an Order that this court has issued.

The court has not been asked to issue a formal Order and it’s the request is that the court call the individual and advise him of what the Order says. And that would not be a proper course of action for the court in any event. I would also note that I do not represent the court or the court system. If somebody in the court system made a mistake, that’s regrettable. If that affects rights, then I suppose somebody might have to decide at some point how to address that, but it will not … it is not appropriate to attempt to redress it to attempt to stop it by the court making a phone call.

Secondly, based on the case that the court discussed on the record, State Ex Rel Thomas versus Grant, it is my legal holding and my ruling that the reporter is not bound by the protective order that underlays the sealing order.

He then goes on to address Goodyear’s portrayal of Jalopnik’s acquisition of the documents as “illegitimate.”

There’s no information before me that he was untruthful with anybody, that he stole the information, anything of that nature.

If Goodyear was hoping to keep this information from the general public, it could not have handled the situation any worse. This sort of clearly unconstitutional request almost always backfires. People not following the saga of Goodyear’s apparent cover-up of RV tire issues would have never seen the NHTSA letter [PDF] detailing the company’s attempt to keep selling defective tires even though they were responsible for dozens of deaths. Now, the damning letter will receive mainstream attention, reaching far beyond the readership of an auto-focused blog.

Companies: goodyear

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Comments on “Goodyear Asks Judge To Help It Bury Document Showing It Covered Up Tire Problems Related To 98 Injuries Or Deaths”

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Anonymous Coward says:


My understanding of the whole tire exploding issue was that it was car company deciding that the inflation pressure was too high for comfort. They then advised everyone with those vehicles to under inflate their tires and this lead to de-laminating and rapid tire disintegration(IE tire explodes). The car company successfully convinced everyone the problem lay with the tire manufacturer and not their own improper tire pressure recommendations. If I were Goodyear, I would sue the car company for loss of company value.

value says:

i value my life and that of others man

stop smoking whatever it it that you are smoking. exploding tyres are not about low pressure, they are about strength in the wall and lining of the tyres. Also about the thickness of the rubber and type and quality of rubber used. Also using other materials in the tyres affects strength and quality of the tyre. so laminating them also affects strength. Laminating tyres is about cost control, so no good trying to argue about a car company under inflating. these tyre problems are not unique as many companies try to get away with ridiculously weak tyres and sell them as premium.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: i value my life and that of others man

Apparently you have no clue how tires are actually made. “Laminating” is a process of building up layers one on top of another in a sandwich type fashion such as the final product is theoretically both stronger and cheaper than if you used a solid build. This is how ALL automotive tires are made. They have multiple layers put together (called plies) to make up the whole. When a tire “de-laminates” the weld between the layers has separated and causes the tire to at best simply deflate. At worst they can fully de-laminate and tear the vehicle body apart in that wheel well, and/or potentially explode. De-lamination has the potential to cause enough damage to a passenger car to total it for insurance purposes not to mention any injuries it can cause even without making it a multi vehicle accident.

Under inflating tires can be as dangerous as over inflating them. Both put extra stress on the sidewalls which are purposely thinner than the treads and more likely to cause a dangerous fault over time. Under inflating can also cause handling to become mushy enough to potentially cause loss of control.

Goodyear doesn’t come out like a rose here. The vehicle manufacturer obviously knew of a potential problem with those tires, and rather than acting appropriately and issuing a recall while informing Goodyear to get their act together, they tried to be cheap and made the problem worse by recommending under inflating.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: i value my life and that of others man

“Under inflating tires can be as dangerous as over inflating them. Both put extra stress on the sidewalls”

Actually, under inflating tires can be more dangerous than over inflating them in some situations. High speed travel is one of them. It’s not because of “extra stress on the sidewalls” on under inflated tires but because the increased flexing of the sidewalls produces more heat, and its that excessive heat that is the main factor that causes high-speed tire failure.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

“Goodyear would be “prejudiced” by the document’s release”

And 100 families grieving with documents from the government exposing flaws locked from public view isn’t prejudicial to people who might like to know they just plunked down cash on new tires that might kill them b/c Goodyear’s good name is more important than human lives.

Its not like we are in a nation where there are still more Takata airbags being discovered in cars b/c that release of information is being slow walked by lawyers who are sure death claims are cheaper than the ass reaming the execs will get for knowing about the bad airbags & hoping it would blow over rather than take action to save lives.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

But why would this data be under seal in the first olace?

If the letter’s contents were substantially derived from legally privileged materials, protecting it under seal would be appropriate. For example, if the law provides that NHTSA can obtain company confidential documents with a very low standard of proof, but the counterbalancing promise that NHTSA has no authority to share those documents, then the documents and the letter derived from them might properly be protected and worthy of being under seal. In this specific case, Goodyear wants the judge to rule that the letter is protected. The judge has not yet ruled for or against this request, but some confusion led the clerk to briefly believe that the judge had ruled against the sealing.

It’s unfortunate for Goodyear that the clerk made this mistake, but Goodyear’s only options are (1) ask politely (with no legal force behind the request) that the reporter not publish the documents; (2) let the reporter publish, then try to find some provision of the law whereby the reporter can be penalized for publishing "secret" content. Asking the judge to call the reporter is a slimy variant of (1), where they hope that the judge’s status will imply legal weight to the request, where none exists. That’s why it’s so appropriate that the judge advised Goodyear to contact the reporter directly, rather than having the judge call on their behalf. I think if Goodyear’s lawyers thought they had any chance at (2), they wouldn’t have resorted to (1).

Dangeroustrailers (profile) says:

You think this is bad...Goodyear and the Utilty Trailer Industry

Goodyear will install no ST rated tires on small trailers….Since 1975 Over 26,000 Dead by a passenger car that is towing a trailer when we include Hayrides, parades, and horse trailers….see this..—caitlyn-johnson-was-killed-her-father-gave-this-to-us-the-coverup.html

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