November 8, 2001: Ontiveros v. Cooper Tire & Rubber Co.

Case No. 99-CP-25-214 (Hampton Co., S.C. St. Ct.)

In the Ontiveros wreck, four people were killed when the tread on one of their tires separated at highway speeds, causing their vehicle to roll over. In the resulting product liability suit against the tire manufacturer, the manufacturer engaged in pattern discovery abuse and refused to comply with its discovery obligations. In a 36 page order, the court outlined and condemned Cooper Tire's behavior, reserving the issue of sanctions until after the court could determine the full extent of the discovery abuse. The court chided the tire manufacturer for violating the court's prior orders by (1) obscuring the content of "smoking gun" documents by stamping "confidential" over the relevant portions, (2) refusing to schedule a court-ordered factory inspection, (3) misrepresenting the confidentiality of tire production processes, (4) concealing other incidents of tread separation by hiding tires during a plant inspection, (5) misrepresenting the cost of manually reproducing documents that could be reproduced electronically at minimal cost, (6) withholding documentation of other incidents of tread separation, (7) denying that responsive NHTSA documents existed then falsely claiming those documents were privileged once discovered, (8) refusing to participate in a transcribed discovery conference with plaintiffs' counsel, and (9) falsely claiming it could not legally store tires demonstrating a pattern of tread separation because there were too many of them when, in fact, the tire manufacturer already stored hundreds of other tires for various reasons.

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