On Tuesday, the Supreme Court issued a final judgment in the case of Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. v. Haeger, deciding in favor of the company over the two individuals.
According to Justice Elena Kagan, the unanimous 8-0 decision was made because Goodyear is only responsible for fees incurred directly because of their misconduct during the trial, rather than all lawyer’s fees that the Haegars racked up. The Supreme Court said the Arizona courts where the decision was made must instead use appropriate standards to determine the costs incurred by Goodyear’s obstruction.
The case will return to the court of appeals, which will now determine what amount is appropriate for Goodyear to pay the family for their difficulties.
In 2003, a motor home accident caused by a Goodyear tire’s failure sent the vehicle flipping over the road, injuring the passengers inside. Leroy and Donna Haeger brought a lawsuit against the company for the accident in 2005, claiming that the tire was not actually appropriate for motor homes as advertised.
The court case continued for five years, mostly involving discussing whether the tire in question had been adequately tested and its results adequately documented before reaching the market. According to Justice Elena Kagan, between 2005 and 2010 the company made “repeated and deliberate attempts” to interrupt, slow down or discourage the lawsuit.
In 2010, just before it went to court, Goodyear agreed to settle with the family. However, after the personal injury settlement, the Haegars’ attorney noted that documents about internal heat testing and speed testing for the tire in question, which had been requested by the Haegars, had never been provided and may never have existed.
In 2012, a district judge ordered that Goodyear pay the Haegars $2.7 million for deliberately obstructing the trial and failing to provide documents.
Goodyear took the case to the court of appeals, which upheld the decision. However, one dissenting judge, Judge Paul Watford, said there might be a “causal link between Goodyear’s misconduct and the fees awarded,” an opinion the Supreme Court later parroted in its decision.
Justice Neil Gorsuch, who was approved to the Supreme Court this April, was not part of the trial, and therefore did not have a vote in the decision.