ST. JOSEPH, Mich. — A Berrien County Trial Court jury awarded a $16 million settlement on Oct. 15, 2015, to Harishkumar Patel who was permanently paralyzed in a vehicle accident on I-94 in Berrien County. Conybeare Law Office of St. Joseph, Mich., was co-counsel for Patel’s lawsuit against Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company.

Patel, 58, was driving U.S. 31 from South Bend, Ind., to Benton Harbor, Mich., on July 6, 2012 when the tire on his Nissan Pathfinder blew. This caused Patel to lose control and flip his vehicle. The accident resulted in Patel’s spinal injury that paralyzed him from the chest down. 

Barry Conybeare served as local counsel and advisor for the lead attorneys, Craig Hilborn and Kevin Riddle of Birmingham, Mich. In the suit, Patel’s attorneys claimed the tire that failed on the vehicle had manufacturing and design defects. The defects eventually caused the steel belts and tread to separate, making the vehicle difficult to control according to a tire expert retained on the case.

Goodyear’s attorneys argued that the tire failure was a result of the vehicle hitting an object some other time before the day of the accident and Patel should have been able to maintain control at 70 miles per hour after the tread separation. The jury deliberated for seven hours and returned a verdict that Goodyear was negligent and that Patel was not at fault for his injury. As one of Patel’s attorneys noted, “[The verdict] sends a message that if you sell a defective product you’re going to be held liable in court, and that if you make a business decision to roll the dice, a jury will hold you accountable.”

This is the second tire failure case against Goodyear in which Conybeare Law Office played a key role. Barry Conybeare also represented a Benton Harbor woman who was catastrophically injured when the motorcycle she was a passenger on crashed as a result of a defectively manufactured tire. Conybeare, and two other attorneys he hired to assist with the case, litigated against Goodyear for several years in Illinois. In 2007, a federal jury found the tire defective and awarded the plaintiff $15 million.

Over its years of practice, Conybeare Law Office has handled numerous product liability cases ranging from defective Christmas decorations to toxic water repellant for boots. It also has represented clients injured by many defective automotive parts including two recent General Motors Corporation defective ignition switch cases.

Conybeare Law Office, located at 519 Main St., St. Joseph, is the largest full-service personal injury firm in Southwest Michigan. It provides representation for victims of automobile accidents, medical malpractice, premise liability and animal attacks as well as worker’s compensation and social security disability claims. For more information, visit conybearelaw.com or call (269) 983-0561.