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Liability of Manufacturers of Truck Wheel Components for Defective Tire Rims

Multi-piece truck wheels or rims have caused numerous serious injuries and deaths to tire mounters since they were introduced to the market. The rims can explosively separate from the wheel and cause injuries by striking tire installers and others standing nearby. The rims have been the subjects of many lawsuits.

Manufacturers of components of truck wheels have been held strictly liable in tort for injuries that have occurred as a result of defective truck tires. Litigation against these component manufacturers has been based in negligence, breach of warranty, and strict liability in tort. Cases alleging strict liability in tort are premised on the theory that the wheel rims are defective and unreasonably dangerous.

In one action against the manufacturer of a tire rim, the manufacturer claimed that it was not responsible for the injuries to the tire mounter because the mounter installed mismatched rims in direct contravention of the warnings provided in the literature that accompanied the rim. Finding in favor of the mounter, the court ruled that the manufacturer could still be held strictly liable even though it provided a warning. The court reasoned that because the potential for serious injury was so great, the warnings were not sufficient to protect the manufacturer from liability. In another case, a truck rim manufacturer was held liable for injuries to an installer who installed the rim backward. The court ruled that the manufacturer failed to warn potential users of the dangers associated with mounting the rims backward. The court further reasoned that the manufacturer could have reasonably anticipated that harm or injury would likely result from its design and that the manufacturer had a duty either to warn or to design the device so that it could not be installed backward.

Truck rim manufacturers have been relieved from liability in some instances. For example, in one case, the manufacturer was relieved of liability because the court found that the manufacturer did not have sufficient notice that the rim was dangerous. Likewise, in another case, the court found that a rim manufacturer was not responsible for injuries from an exploding ring because the plaintiff failed to prove that the rim's design was defective and because that type of rim had been used in the industry for many years. In defending truck rim lawsuits, manufacturers often claim that the rim explosion was the result of overinflation of the tire. Other defenses such as contributory negligence (that the mounter was also negligent in the manner in which he installed the tire on the rim) and assumption of the risk (that mounters are aware of the risk of injury from an exploding rim but choose to perform the work regardless of the risk) have also been used in truck rim litigation.

Copyright 2012 LexisNexis, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc.

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