In March 2016, John “Johnny” Johnson, a mechanic employed by Infiniti of Parkland, attempted to mount a 16-inch tire on a 17-inch rim of an Infiniti G35 wheel. While installing the tire, he leaned and reached over the assembly and the tire exploded, causing him serious, permanent injuries. Mr. Johnson lost three fingers of his right hand in the accident, as well as the vision in his right eye. In addition to his job at the dealership, Mr. Johnson was an aspiring reggae musician who the day of the accident had received a multi-million dollar record contract offer from Tinseltown Records. Mr. Johnson filed suit in Florida’s 17th Judicial Circuit Court against his employer,
American Hawk Company– the manufacturer of the wheel, Nissan Motor Company – the manufacturer of the automobile and designer of the wheel and Coldrock Tire and Rubber Company – the manufacturer of the tire. Mr. Johnson had 10 years of experience as a mechanic and had received three days of on-site training from representatives of Coldrock. The dealership, wheel manufacturer and automobile manufacturer all settled, leaving Coldrock as the remaining defendant.
This is a civil tort case and not a criminal one. Causes of actions will consist of claims for
1. Negligence, and
2. (Strict) product liability
An issue in the case is the labeling on the tire. The tire had a label, advising users never to mount a 16-inch tire on a 17-inch rim, warning of the danger of severe injury or death, and included a drawing of a mechanic leaning over the tire to install it with a circle and red line drawn through it. Whether the label was sufficiently conspicuous or adequately depicted the resulting danger or risk of injury, remains an open issue. In depositions, Johnson admitted that he ignored these warnings at the urging of his employer, especially because it was common practice to install smaller tires on larger rims of the Infiniti G35. During discovery, Johnson’s attorneys explored why Coldrock did not use a safer “bead” design.
The bead is a rubber encased steel wire, which circles the tire and holds it on to the rim. Each side has offered up experts, with Johnson’s pointing out that other manufacturers use different and safer bead designs and Coldrock’s arguing that the Coldrock design was the safest in the industry, and a different design would not have changed the outcome.
The defendant in the case is Roger “Cole” Coldrock, CEO of the company, who is being represented by the Wall Street firm of Ben, Jarvis, Green & Ellis, LLP. The plaintiff is being represented by the law firm of Dewey, Cheatum & Howe, LLP, a specialist in product liability suits. The assigned judge in the case is the Hon. Solomon Cardozo Holmes, a recent appointee by the Republican governor. Before his appointment, Judge Holmes was in private practice with a large Fort Lauderdale firm; his major client was General Motors.