Victims of fatal U.S. Highway 65 van rollover award $33 million

Legal news for Iowa automobile accident attorneys. A jury awarded seven passengers $33 million for deadly van rollover crash.

Cooper Tire and Rubber Company ordered to pay $33 million for manufacturing design that contributed to fatal van rollover.

Des Moines, IA—A Polk County jury awarded $33 million to the seven passengers involved in van rollover wreck near Bondurant in September 2007. The jury blamed the crash on the tire maker, Cooper Tire and Rubber Company of Ohio, citing its manufacturing design of the tire caused the accident, as reported by the Des Moines Register.

A minivan overturned on U.S. Highway 65, north of Bondurant, when the minivan’s left rear tire suddenly blew-out and lost its tread, causing it to roll. Seven passengers were consequently ejected from the 1997 Plymouth Grand Voyager as it rolled into a ditch from the northbound lanes. Assata Karlar, 27, of Des Moines, who was passenger in the van, was tragically killed during the rollover. Passenger, Ivan Toe, was paralyzed from the neck down, while the driver, Alfred Lang, of Des Moines, suffered minor injuries as a result of the wreck. The jurors concluded that Cooper Tire should pay $1.5 million in punitive damages, to keep the tire company and its competitors from making similar manufacturing design flaws. One-fourth of that sum will go directly to the plaintiffs, while three-fourths will go to a crime victim’s state fund. The total $33 million award will be dispersed among the seven victims and their relatives for medical costs, pain and suffering, lost income and other legal damages. Toe, who now lives in a nursing home, received the largest share of $28.4 million. Majority of Toe’s share, $24.5 million to be exact, will provide 24-hour home nursing care, a special shower and other medical expenses so she can live and be cared for at home.

The jury rejected the defendant’s accusations that the driver failed to maintain control of the vehicle. The defendant cited gaps in the tire’s history and use, and that Lang, who was an inexperienced motorist, was speeding at the time. Cooper Tire also contends that the tire model involved in the wreck complied with federal standards, and was never subject to recall.

The award is Polk County’s second largest in the last three years.

Legal News Reporter: Nicole Howley-Legal news for Iowa automobile accident lawyers.

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