$16.5M Georgia Tire Blowout Verdict Awarded to Refugee's Family in 15-Passenger Van Death

A jury has awarded a $16.5 million Georgia 15-passenger van accident verdict to the family of Bhutanese refugee Kharka Chhetri. Defendants in the tire blowout case included Michelin North America and van driver Bhim Bhista.

The Chevrolet 3500 van was transporting 15 people to a chicken plant when the tire damage happened. The vehicle then struck the median guardrail and overturned. 12 people were injured and another passenger was killed. According to the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office, some of the injuires were so severe, including one decapitation, a severed right hand, serious head injuries, a severed forearm, and a broken jaw. The crash report noted that while the two front tires were in good condition, the two rear tires were not.

The attorneys for Chhetri’s legal team believe that the defective design of the tire caused it to lose its tread. They claim Michelin knew about the design problem but did not fix it.

The Georgia jury said Michelin was 80% liable while Bhista was 20% at fault. Chhetri’s family was awarded $5 million in wrongful death damages, while his estate received $20,000 for pain and suffering and funeral costs. Michelin was also ordered to pay $11.5 million in punitive damages.

Michelin says it disagrees with the verdict and that the tire that was involved was improperly repaired and had been used in more than 50,000 miles of driving.

As our 15-passenger van lawyers have mentioned before, the more a vehicle is fully loaded—even when used as designed and directed—its rollover chances go up because of the way its center of gravity is affected. This makes 15-passenger vans not the safest auto to ride. These vehicles also do not respond well to tire blowouts, upping the chances of mass injuries and even deaths.

Often, people riding in 15-passengers vans will let down their guard and not wear a seatbelt as if they were riding in a bus. This sense of safety is false and can lead to catastrophic results. Inexperience drivers, lacking the knowledge and practice to safely navigate a vehicle this size, can also be a problem.

At The Gilbert Law Group®, our 15-passenger van lawyers are here to help you explore your legal options. Our auto products liability law firm represents clients throughout the US and we are known for our experience in filing claims and lawsuits against automakers, tire manufacturers, and others in the auto industry.

Tire Defects
A tire that blows out makes it difficult for a motorist to stay in control of the car, which can cause the auto to collide into another car or go off the road. Tire blowouts can up the chances of a rollover collision happening, increasing the likelihood of severe head injuries, ejections, and other catastrophic injuries and situations.

There may be more than one party who should be held liable, such as the tire manufacturer, a driver that failed to properly maintain the tires, or a tire repair/installation shop that did a poor job.


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