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BFGOODRICH, INC. v. BOBBY TAYLOR

JUNE 03, 1987

BFGOODRICH, INC.
v.
BOBBY TAYLOR



BEFORE HAWKINS, P.J., PRATHER AND GRIFFIN, JJ.

HAWKINS, PRESIDING JUSTICE, FOR THE COURT:

BFGoodrich, Inc., appeals from a jury verdict and judgment in favor of Bobby Taylor for $250,000 in the circuit court of Prentiss County.

The only issue we address on appeal is the sufficiency of the evidence to support a finding a liability and the amount of the award.

 Finding no error, we affirm.

 FACTS

 BFGoodrich, Inc., a New York corporation, is a major manufacturer of motor vehicle tires. One of Goodrich's plants, located in Miami, Oklahoma, employs about 2,000 personnel, operates on three shifts, and has approximately 40 acres under one roof.

 One of the products of the Oklahoma plant are farm tractor tires. In November, 1978, this plant manufactured the tire involved in this case, namely: a 16 inch Co-Op tri-rib tractor front tire, Serial No. Y606B2K3061. This tire was sold and delivered in a shipment to Universal Co-Operatives, a Wisconsin corporation, which in turn sold and delivered the tire to MFC Services (AAL), a multi-state cooperative wholesaler, which in turn on January 2, 1979, shipped and sold the tire to Prentiss County Co-Op, a local cooperative.

 Either that day or shortly thereafter the Prentiss County Co-Op sold this tire and another of the same size to Marliss Thornton, a resident of Prentiss County. The tires were put into the bed of Thornton's pickup truck, where they remained for several days. On or about January 16, Thornton took the two front rims off his farm tractor together with the two tires to a filling station in Marietta, a small community in Prentiss County. The station was owned and operated by Bobby Taylor, plaintiff herein, who was to mount the new tires on the rims. *fn1/

 The tires had pasted on them their description and the following safety precautions:

 IMPORTANT SAFETY PRECAUTIONS' (1) Be sure rim and tube are proper size for tire. (2) Remove rust deposits from rim wall and rim flange by buffing or wire brushing. (3) Centering tire and tube and lubricating both beads and rim with approved rubber lubricant or thin solution of vegetable oil soap are extremely important to prevent bead

 damage. (4) Use remote control inflation equipment. (For safety inflation cage is recommended.) Never stand in front of or over the tire and wheel when inflating. (5) Do not exceed 35 pounds pressure when sealing tire beads to rim. (6) After beads have seated properly, remove valve core and completely deflate tire. Reinsert valve core and reinflate to recommended air pressure. (7) WARNING: Failure to observe these precautions may cause bead breakage or other failures resulting in possible serious or fatal injury.

 (Vol. I., p.139)

 Using his machine, Taylor mounted one of the tires on the rim without incident.

 Taylor described his machine as a" flat rig, "a" mount "where he fixed flats. Photographs of the machine in the record show it to be an instrument familiar at filling stations and tire stores where tires are sold, mounted and repaired. Its base is circular, and approximately two feet high is a circular metal platform with a metal spindle approximately 12 inches long in the center. It has other devices which are used to seat as well as remove tires from the rims.

 The portion of the machine known as the" bead breaker "sticks out a few inches further from the diameter of the circular platform on which the tire sits. The bead breaker is used to pop the" bead "off when one takes a tire off of a wheel rim. The bead is the hard rim on the inside perimeter of a tire that holds the tire on the wheel rim.

 Taylor removed the old tire from the rim. He took" 30 weight "oil and a wire brush and applied the oil to the bead. He also brushed the rim with oil or grease to remove any rust. He put the tire and rim on the machine, and put the bottom bead onto the rim. He screwed a locking nut onto the spindle. He then inserted the tube into the tire and inflated the tube in order to" get the wrinkle out of the tube. "At that time the valve stem had no core. Using the" bar "of the machine, Taylor then pried the upper bead of the tire onto the rim. Taylor then inserted air" where the tire would come up to the rim, "and inserted the valve stem core. He then unscrewed the locking nut so that it would not be tight against the rim, with but three or four threads holding it. When he put the valve core in the stem, he gauged the tire to have between 18 and 20 pounds of pressure. He intended to put approximately 28 pounds of pressure in the

 tire. He was in the process of getting the air hose to put more air into the tire, and had his hand over the tire and rim when it blew out and hit his hand. Taylor testified the tire and rim went to the ceiling, and sounded like" dynamite. "

 The accident severely injured Taylor's hand. Billy Joe Barnes was standing outside the station some 60 feet away, and heard the" explosion, the racket. "He went to the source of the sound and met Taylor coming out holding his hand, around which he had wrapped a rag. Barnes took Taylor to the Baldwyn Hospital where Taylor had first aid administered before being taken to the North Mississippi Medical Center in Tupelo.

 Shortly after the accident, someone in the community informed Taylor's brother, Guy, who lived approximately one-half mile from the station. Guy went to the station and saw someone who told him Taylor had been hurt, that a tire had blown up.

 Guy went into the shop and found the tire still on the rim and lying beside the mounting machine. He could not tell whether anything was wrong with the tire, and put the tire and rim back on to the machine and screwed the locking nut on. He removed the top of the tire and took out the tube. The tube was" blowed out and splintered. "

 He took the tire back off the machine and examined it for defects on both sides, but saw none at the time.

 He then laid the tire back onto the tube, and where the tube had burst, he pushed down on the underside of the tire and discovered a cut approximately 2-1/2 inches in length. He threw the inner tube away.

 Guy remained at the station the rest of the day and closed the business. He took the tire and rim to his home, and kept it stored there, except when he took it to the hospital two days later for Taylor to look at it.

 Taylor employed a law firm in Booneville to represent him, who in turn retained the services of Dr. Lane Richard (Rick) Avent, a professor in the civil engineering department at Mississippi State University. Avent taught the behavior of various kinds of structures and materials under static (slowly applied) or dynamic (suddenly applied) forces.

 Avent first saw the tire and rim in the law firm's Booneville office in April, 1979. Taylor's attorney Langston

 informed Avent what Taylor had related. Although Avent had been told of the cut, when he looked at the tire he did not notice it until a second look. The cut was a smooth cut which appeared to have been made by a knife.

 Avent also inspected the tire mounting device at the station. He noticed a chip off the spindle at the top threads, but he could screw the nut on. Other than this, the machine appeared normal.

 Taylor testified at trial that the threads in the spindle had been stripped by the accident and he had to replace the spindle. There is thus some discrepancy between Taylor, his brother Guy and Avent.

 Avent took the tire and rim to the university in Starkville. He said the cut was smooth, approximately 2-1/2 inches in length and appeared to have been made with a sharp knife. Avent ran a series of tests with the tire and a new rim, as well as with the rim involved in the accident. He also used another tire. X-rays and numerous photographs were made.

 On the tests Avent noticed that when the tire was inflated the tube would extrude outside the tire and eventually explode. With the tire laying in the open and the cut on the top side, a tube blowout did not move the tire. With the cut on the bottom, while the ...


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