$37.8M Verdict Animating Product Defects After Tire Explodes

Jonathan Halperin, Halperin Law Center, Richmond, VA, and Jay Halpern, Halpern Santos Pinkert, Coral Gables, FL

Jonathan Halperin and Jay Halpern returned a $37.8M verdict to the driver of a concrete mixer who suffered catastrophic injuries after a defective tire exploded, causing his truck to smash into an embankment and flip over with enough force to knock the truck’s mixing bowl off the truck frame.

The Plaintiff was paralyzed from the chest down with spinal fractures in his neck and thoracic region. He also suffered a ruptured spleen, a collapsed lung, and fractures to his collarbone, ribs, and forearm. Today, the 53-year-old veteran of Desert Storm and Desert Shield has extreme difficulty holding food in his hand and uses a special device to drink. An expert testified that his life expectancy had been shortened by 11½ years.

The tire manufacturer argued that there were no inherent defects in its tires, and the victim was to blame for ignoring cuts in the tire, hitting a pothole, and failing to properly handle the vehicle after the tire blew. $4M was the highest amount the Defense was willing to offer.

Mr. Halperin and Mr. Halpern needed to show jurors that the tire broke apart and exploded because of two manufacturing defects that turned the tire into “a ticking time bomb.” They also needed jurors to understand why these negligent acts clearly and directly contributed to the tire’s explosion. Our forensic team was tasked with building an animation that would achieve the following visual objectives:

  • Introduce the tire’s anatomy to build context for the defective liner.
  • Establish that the tire manufacturer made its inner liners too thin.
  • Show how the tire’s inner liner also displayed evidence of imprints from its fabric backing during storage - a clear indicator that the tire had not completely bonded and should have been scrapped by the manufacturer.
  • Demonstrate how neglecting these two points resulted in an inner liner that would allow oxygen to permeate into the tire, causing degradation to its physical properties until it suddenly and catastrophically failed.
  • Reinforce these points with photographic evidence showing unmistakable evidence of oxidation and degradation.

The following animation helped Plaintiff attorneys convince the jury to compensate their client with a $37.8M verdict.

Note: All branding and identifying specs have been removed from this version.

Animating Product Defects After Tire Explodes

Jonathan Halperin, Halperin Law Center, Richmond, VA
High Impact created an animation that perfectly visually explained to the jurors complex chemistry and manufacturing concepts to show the defect was cooked into a truck tire by the manufacturer years before the tire came apart with tragic consequences. The animation perfectly explained our theory of the case to the jury in under 3 minutes. Bravo High Impact!
Jonathan Halperin, Halperin Law Center, Richmond, VA

Introducing the Anatomy of the Tire

The attorneys needed to show that the Defendant was liable for two manufacturing defects - both involving the tire’s inner liner. But in order for jurors to more easily understand the importance of that inner liner, they needed to learn some basic mechanics about what comprises a tire’s durability, and how the inner liner protects that durability from oxidization.

Animating Breakdown of Internal Layers

The rubber in a tire is compromised of many ingredients that collectively facilitate a process called “interdiffusion,” which holds all the components together and maintains durability throughout the tire’s lifespan. Steel belts embedded in this rubber protect the tire from external forces.

Jay Halpern, Esq., Halpern | Santos | Pinkert, Coral Gables, FL
High Impact worked in coordination with our expert, trial consultant, and numerous attorneys to generate an animation that depicted a subtle and nuanced theory of liability regarding how a truck tire failed. The animation brought to life an internal process within the truck tire which was a challenge to articulate. We used the animation at the conclusion of our expert’s testimony to illustrate the concepts he had discussed. The animation created an “aha” moment as our theory of the case became a visual and realistic thing. It was worth every penny.
Jay Halpern, Esq., Halpern | Santos | Pinkert, Coral Gables, FL

Steel belts help protect the tire from exterior forces; the inner liner protects the tire from internal oxygen.

The role of the tire’s inner liner is to protect the natural rubber from the air inside the tire, which would disrupt the interdiffusion process and cause the rubber to degrade through oxidation.

It is undeniable that interdiffusion is the primary mechanism that holds tire components together, and that anything that reduces interdiffusion reduces the durability of the tire.
David Southwest, Engineering Expert Report, TyreXperts

Defect 1: Inner Liner Too Thin

The first liability point Mr. Halperin and Mr. Halpern needed to establish was that the Defendant’s inner liner was too thin. In fact, it was less than two-thirds the thickness of the factory-specified standard, as shown in the animation.

Comparing the Correct VS Incorrect Inner Lining Thickness.

Visually comparing the correct thickness against the Defendant’s incorrect thickness added valuable context for the jury to see the magnitude to which the Defendant skimped on safety.

The permeability of an inner liner is a function of both its gauge (thickness) and chemical composition. I can very confidently say that an average liner gauge of 1.8mm in a truck and bus tire is – regardless of compound – highly inadequate.
David Southwest, Engineering Expert Report, TyreXperts

Defect 2: Inner Liner’s Incomplete Adhesion

The second manufacturing defect the Plaintiff attorneys needed to establish was that the inner liner displayed evidence of imprints from its fabric backing after storage - a clear indicator that the tire had not completely bonded and should have been scrapped by the manufacturer.

Animating How An Inner Liner Should Look

The inner liner is wrapped up in a fabric backing when it’s being stored. When unwrapped, the liner should have no imprints from the fabric, as demonstrated above. The inner liner manufactured by the Defendant (below) showed clearly visible imprints from the fabric backing, revealing that the liner had not properly bonded, and should have been considered defective.

Animating Evidence Indicating the Defendant’s Liner Stored for Too Long

Once again, visually comparing a normal liner versus a defective liner helped add context while anchoring the jury’s understanding of this liability point with one simple visual.

The subject tire displays multiple areas of liner imprint, a clear indicator of incomplete interdiffusion and component adhesion.
David Southwest, Engineering Expert Report, TyreXperts

How Defects Resulted in Explosion

Once they had established the product defects, Mr. Halperin and Mr. Halpern needed to show how these defects allowed oxygen to permeate the inner liner and deteriorate the tire.

Interdiffusion ensures proper bonding of molecules

As explained, the tire’s rubber is comprised of many molecules (above) that collectively facilitate the process of “Interdiffusion,” which is what holds the tire together and maintains its durability. Because the inner layer was too thin and because its adhesive molecules weren’t adequately bonded together, oxygen was able to permeate the inner liner and completely disrupt the tire’s molecular durability.

As oxygen continued breaching the inner layer, it essentially cooked the tire in a gradual heating process that would inevitably result in a violent explosion.

As oxygen breaches the tire, it cooks the composition.

The Plaintiff’s engineering expert was able to testify confidentially that the inadequate inner liner allowed oxygen to migrate into the internal tire components, “causing serious degradation and thereby rendering the tire dangerous.”

The body ply skim coat and first belt around the circumference of the subject tire exhibits clear signs of oxidation, a sample of which is witnessed by the photographs.
David Southwest, Engineering Expert Report, TyreXperts

Grounding the Presentation with Photographic Evidence

Once we had established the Defendant’s negligence and mechanism of destruction, the animation concludes with photographic evidence that reinforces the points above.

Imprinted Inner Liner Layer and Damaged Steel Belted Layer

The image on the left shows the imprints from fabric on the inner liner of the tire, which proved incomplete adhesion. The image on the right depicts the steel belted layer that was severely damaged, which proved oxidation. Both images paint a clear picture of product liability.

Comparing Correct Tire to Defective Tire

Comparing a correct tire to the tears in the Defendant’s tire shows more clear evidence of product liability.

The physical evidence visible on the tire to a trained inspector is the most reliable source of information in determining the cause of its failure.
David Southwest, Engineering Expert Report, TyreXperts

The animation ultimately helped reinforce Mr. Southwest’s expert testimonial and helped jurors understand why the Defendant was liable for manufacturing a defective product.

High Impact’s team of visual strategists, artists and developers can build and customize your digital presentation for any case involving personal injury, medical malpractice, birth trauma - or any subject involving complex information.

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