Cooper Tire ordered to release documents in USU van crash lawsuit

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A federal appeals court has ordered Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. to release hundreds of documents on the design and construction of its tires.A Cooper tire blew out during a 2005 van crash that killed eight Utah State University students and their instructor.The Findlay, Ohio-based company says it makes good tires and blames the Sept. 26, 2005, crash on high speed, overloading and tire under-inflation.Lawyers for families of the crash victims – including two survivors – say previously disclosed company documents raise questions about the integrity of all Cooper tires.The Denver-based 10th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court on Tuesday and ordered Cooper to share information about any defects in all of its tires.”We respectfully disagree with the court’s opinion but will abide by this pretrial ruling and comply fully with our discovery obligations,” Cooper’s investor-relations manager, Curtis Schneekloth, said Friday.”While we agree that any loss of life is tragic, we look forward to defending the integrity of our product at the upcoming trial,” he said.Bruce Kaster, a lawyer in Ocala, Fla., has made a specialty of suing tire makers for tread-separation accidents. He is one of the lawyers for the families in the USU case.”We anticipate that the trial will disclose the multiple design defects in Cooper steel belted radial tires,” Kaster said.Kaster said Cooper tires lack a key safety component called a “gum strip” that he says prevents tread separations.Schneekloth said Cooper uses “compensating” technology in most of its tires – extra rubber to anchor steel belts in place.Kaster said Cooper is referring to a 1970 design feature “that has been found not to be effective.”The massive recall of Firestone tires in 2000 was touched off by a diminished gum strip, Kaster said.

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