Michelin to Pay $16.5 Million to Family of Van Wreck Victim

Our Atlanta product liability attorneys saw a news story this week about a defective product case and the family of an immigrant from Bhutan who won their civil suit against tire company Michelin.

In 2011, a large van was carrying 14 people to work at a chicken processing plant, Perdue Farms in Perry, on I-75 near Macon, Georgia.  All the passengers and the driver were part of an immigrant community from Bhutan and lived in Clarkson.  On their way to work, the rear tire of the van blew out suddenly, causing the van to smash into a median guardrail and flip over.  Because of that accident, two people were killed and 12 were injured.  One of those killed was Kharka Chhetri, a 50 year old immigrant.  Chhetri’s family sued Michelin North America, the maker of the blown out tire, as well as the van’s driver, Bhim Bhista.  Against Michelin, the lawsuit claimed that the company knew about a design defect in the tires and that the company did nothing about the defect.  The family said they included Bhista in the lawsuit because in lawsuits like this the company often tries to blame the driver, or the driver might be partly at fault.

White Van Credit

This week, a jury in DeKalb County found in favor of Chhetri’s family.  It was determined that Michelin was 80 percent at fault and the driver, Bhista, was 20 percent at fault.  Chhetri’s widow was awarded $5 million for her husband’s wrongful death, and the family also got $20,000 to pay for his funeral expenses.  In addition, the jury awarded $11.5 million in punitive damages against Michelin.

A spokesperson for Michelin said in a statement, “Michelin is disappointed by the outcome and respectfully disagrees with the verdict.  The tire had been in use for over 50,000 miles and had an improper repair of a half-inch cut. Michelin always strives for excellence in product quality and safety; this tire is no different.”  Michelin is considering an appeal in this case.

Lawyers for Bhista resolved a cross complaint against the other defendant before trial, so he will not be responsible for paying his share of the $5 million wrongful death award to Chhetri’s widow, which would amount to $1 million.

Chhetri’s case was the first to get through the trial process from this tragic accident.  There are 12 more cases pending, so the outcome from Chhetri’s case should give some indication of how the others will go.  Product liability and wrongful death lawyers in Georgia will be following the rest of the cases as they make their way through the courts, as well.

Atlanta Product Liability Lawyers

If a you or a family member has suffered due to a defective product, the experienced personal injury attorneys at Sammons & Carpenter may be able to help get the compensation needed and deserved.  To discuss your case, contact the Law Office of Sammons & Carpenter as soon as possible at 404-991-5950, or fill out our confidential online case evaluation form for a free consultation today.

Photo Credit: Sam-Lehman via Compfight cc

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