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Tire Defect Led to Catastrophic Injury and $41 Million Verdict

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Corpus Christi, TXTwo years ago, a pickup truck blew a tire, rolled and threw 17-year-old Rubi Ann Roca out of the vehicle, leaving her paralyzed from the chest down. Her life was forever changed because of a leaky roof in the Michelin North America Tire factory in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and the rain water that contaminated the manufacturing process.

"It is really a shame and it could have been avoided," says the Roca family attorney Brantley White, from the Texas firm of Sico, White, Hoelscher & Braugh. "That company has spent a lot of money litigating this case. It is too bad that money wasn't spent on repairing that roof."

The tire had no sign of puncture and there was still plenty of tread, but there were indications that led White to be certain the problem came from the plant.

"We had strong indications from the tire itself. It suffered a track error and it is well known in the tire industry that if water is built into a tire when it is vulcanized (or heated), the water vaporizes and causes bubbles or blisters between the tracks."

It is the kind of defect in a tire that can cause an accident and indeed is the likely cause of Roca's injuries.

"We were able to introduce evidence at trial that the plant where the tire was manufactured had a dilapidated, old leaky roof," says White. "We had former tire builders from the plant come forward and testify that when it rained, rain would come into the building and contaminate the raw rubber components."

White, who has litigated on behalf of many clients who've been involved in catastrophic accidents involving defective tires, went so far as to find out what the weather was like in Tuscaloosa on the day the tire that caused Roca's accident was manufactured.

It was raining.

A jury recently found Michelin 100 percent negligent in the accident and ordered the company to pay Rubi Ann Roca $41.8 million for medical costs, pain and suffering, and disfigurement, both past and future.

"This a catastrophic injury case brought about by a defective and unreasonably dangerous product," says White summing up the case.

Rubi Ann Rocha is both very young and very injured. "It is a life sentence," says White. from the Texas firm of Sico, White, Hoelscher & Braugh. "The cost of medical care she needs is astronomical. She is going to have life-long medical issues."

Brantley White is graduate of the Texas Tech University School of Law. He is a name partner in the firm of Sico, White, Hoelscher & Braugh. He focuses on automotive defect litigation, child restraint litigation, work place accidents, heavy truck wrecks and tire litigation. He has obtained substantive verdicts and settlements on behalf of clients against such companies as GM, Ford, Goodyear and the Cooper Tire Company.

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