Victims and relatives of victims who died or were seriously injured in a 2013 bus crash on Interstate 40 reached a settlement earlier this year with Hankook Tire Company over allegations that a defective tire led to the incident, their attorneys report. The terms of the settlement were withheld pursuant to a confidentiality agreement.
The crash happened on Oct. 2, 2013, in Tennessee, when members of a seniors group from Front Street Baptist Church in Statesville were traveling home on a bus owned by the church after attending a jubilee event in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Eight people died as a result of the crash, and 14 more were seriously injured.
The tread separated from the front left tire of the bus as it was traveling along I-40, causing the sudden blowout, according to plaintiffs’ attorney Ragan Dudley of Homesley Gaines Dudley in Statesville.
As a result, Dudley said, the bus veered sharply to the left, across the median and through a steel cable barrier into oncoming westbound traffic. The bus then collided with an SUV and an 18-wheeler, causing the ejection of some passengers and igniting a fire. A passenger in the SUV and the driver of the 18-wheeler both died.
In addition, the bus driver, Randy Morrison, his wife, Barbara Morrison, and passengers Cloyce Matheny, Marsha McLelland, Brenda Smith, and John Wright all died.
Dudley argued in Iredell County Superior Court that the separation was the result of a manufacturer’s defect which Hankook knew, or should have known from prior incidents, would cause the tire to fail.
The defense denied responsibility, arguing that Morrison, who was the church member in charge of maintaining the vehicle, was at fault. But Dudley contended that bus passengers never noticed any impact with a road hazard or bump during the trip.
According to Dudley, the defense abandoned their argument that Morrison was at fault the week before the case went to trial. After jury selection, and on the eve of opening statements, Dudley said the defense approached the plaintiffs with a confidential settlement offer which they accepted.
Dudley said the offer also came after the plaintiffs had filed a motion for sanctions against Hankook for concealing “crucial evidence for more than two years.” Dudley said the evidence related to product testing information collected by the company during the manufacturing process.
Defense attorneys David Allen and Christopher Daniels of Nelson, Mullins, Riley & Scarborough in Charlotte and Greenville, South Carolina, respectively, did not respond to requests for comment before press deadlines.
Dudley said that since the settlement was reached in January, a cross claim and one other related suit have also settled, but another related suit is currently pending.
The settlement amount was withheld due to a confidentiality agreement. Dudley would not comment on the amount due to the agreement, but said his clients were happy with the results.
“The settlement ended a case that had been extensively litigated for more than three years,” Dudley said in an emailed statement. “Our clients were very satisfied with the settlement and we feel it was a very fair and worthwhile result.”
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SETTLEMENT REPORT—PRODUCT LIABILITY
Court: Iredell County Superior Court
Injuries alleged: Five deaths and 12 serious injuries
Case name: Boyer et al v. Hankook Tire Co.
Case Number: 14 CVS 01873
Judge: Robert Ervin
Date of settlement: Jan. 30
Attorneys for plaintiff: Brandon Peak of Butler Wooten & Peak in Atlanta and Ragan Dudley and Edmund Gaines of Homesley Gaines Dudley in Statesville
Attorneys for defendant: David Allen and Christopher Daniels of Nelson, Mullins, Riley & Scarborough in Charlotte and Greenville, South Carolina, respectively