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.
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.