February 28, 2018 - Confidential
Thomas Lynn Smith, et al. v. Hankook Tire Co., Ltd., et al., Superior Court of Iredell County, North Carolina. On October 2, 2013, Thomas Lynn Smith and several other members of a senior adult group from the Front Street Baptist Church in Statesville, NC were traveling home to Statesville, NC on a large church bus after attending a Christian jubilee in Gatlinburg, TN. As the church bus was traveling in the left lane of I-40, the front left tire of the bus—a defective Hankook brand tire—suffered a sudden, catastrophic, and complete tread/belt separation. The tread/belt separation caused the church bus to veer sharply to the left, across the median, through a steel cable barrier, and into westbound traffic, at which time it collided with a Chevrolet Tahoe and tractor-trailer proceeding westbound on I-40. The collisions were severe, ejecting some passengers on the church bus and causing a horrific fire. The defective Hankook tire caused the collisions, killing a total of eight people and seriously injuring fourteen others. BP LLP represented the families of five people who were killed and twelve other people who were seriously injured.
Hankook denied responsibility for the crash and, for more than three years, attempted to blame Randy Morrison, the driver of the bus and a member of the church group, for the crash. Hankook finally relented, abandoning that defense the week before trial.
The specially set trial began on January 16, 2018. The trial was temporarily side-tracked on January 18, 2018 when Hankook, for a second time, attempted to remove the case to federal court. Hankook’s second attempted removal came just days after the Court heard arguments relating to a motion for sanctions filed by Plaintiffs, who were seeking a default judgment against Hankook for concealing crucial evidence for more than two years. On January 22, 2018, the case was remanded back to state court, for the second time, where the trial resumed.
After several days of jury selection and on the eve of opening statements, while the motion for sanctions remained looming, Hankook capitulated and settled all of the cases for BWP’s clients for a confidential amount. The settlement ended a case that had been extensively litigated for more than three years.