Oregon Husband of Pregnant Woman Killed in Crash Sues For $18M

By | June 4, 2015

The husband and the son of a pregnant woman who died in a rollover crash seek up to $18 million in a wrongful death lawsuit filed against three businesses, including the maker of a tire that blew during an Oregon family’s trip through eastern Iowa two years ago.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs, Heriberto Barajas and his 5-year-old son, Eric Barajas, allege that Continental Tire manufactured and distributed a tire that was “defective and unreasonably dangerous.” The suit filed this week in Oregon also names the owner of a Portland dealership that sold the vehicle less than two weeks before the crash and a business that performed maintenance.

“Tires that are safely designed, and within the tread life, do not separate and fail,” attorney Douglas P. Oh-Keith said. “This tire was unreasonably dangerous and should not have been sold. As a result, a young man has lost his wife and baby, and a little boy will grow up without his mother.”

Jochen Eitzel, the chief executive of South Carolina-based Continental Tire, the Americas, did not return a message seeking comment Tuesday. The company’s global headquarters are in Germany.

lawsuitThe crash happened June 22, 2013, as eight members of a family returned from Chicago. Oh-Keith said they had visited Heriberto Barajas’ cancer-stricken grandfather.

An Iowa State Patrol crash report said eight people were in a 2003 Ford Expedition when a rear tire deflated, causing the driver to lose control on Interstate 80 in Cedar County.

The vehicle rolled multiple times, killing 21-year-old Ivon Carina Barajas-Orozco and injuring the other seven occupants, the Quad-City Times reported at the time.

The lawsuit seeks compensation for medical expenses plus millions for the emotional distress of watching Barajas-Orozco’s death. Moreover, the suit asks a jury to award Heriberto Barajas up to $3 million for the death of the unborn child. His wife was seven months pregnant.

The Ford was driven by Maria Isabel Barajas Ballines. She bought the vehicle less than two weeks before the crash, and it had mismatched tires – three Goodyears and the Continental, the lawsuit states.

Attorneys allege Continental didn’t adequately warn about “the propensity of the tire to experience a sudden and catastrophic separation of the tread from the tire carcass.” It also claims Neri Auto Sales shouldn’t have sold a vehicle with mismatched tires, and the Continental tire was too old to be on the road.

The owner of Neri Auto Sales, Francisco Lopez, did not return a phone message.

The dot code for the tire shows it was manufactured in August 2003, making it almost 10 years old at the time of the crash, according to a database maintained by Tire Safety Group, a consumer-advocacy organization.

The database shows the tire in question has not been involved in a recall.

In 2011, Continental Tire recalled 390,000 truck tires, most of which are used as original tires on 2008-2009 Ford F-250 and F-350 trucks. The company said some of the tires could experience uneven wear, vibration or separation between the belt edges in cases where the truck is overloaded or underinflated.

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