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Historic Settlement Approved in Cooper Tire Class Action

    NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J.--Sept. 13, 2002--Today New Jersey Superior Court Judge Marina Corodemus approved a national class action settlement between a class of approximately 40 million consumers and defendant Cooper Tire.
    The class consists of people who purchased and own over 180 million steel belted radial tires manufactured by Cooper Tire & Rubber Company between January 1, 1985 and January 6, 2002.
    The New Jersey national class action settlement consolidated class actions brought in 33 states. Led by lead counsel Allan Kanner, a nationally prominent class action expert of the New Orleans law firm Allan Kanner & Associates, P.C., and liaison counsel John E. Keefe, Jr., of Lynch Martin in Shrewsbury, NJ, these cases involved consumer fraud claims that Cooper Tire failed to disclose problems related to adhesion between layers of its tires. None of the claims or the settlement involves personal injury, property damage or a recall of Cooper Tire's tires.
    "We knew this settlement created huge, unprecedented benefits to class members, and this was confirmed by the court, which valued the settlement at between $1 billion and $3 billion in benefits for class members," said Keefe.
    "This national settlement is historic and represents an unprecedented victory for consumers in a number of respects," said Kanner. According to Kanner, the settlement provides class members with three main benefits, all of which have now become the gold standard for future cases.
    First, the settlement automatically changes class members' conventional pro-rata tire warranty, which came with the tire when purchased, into an unprecedented insurance policy guaranteeing a free replacement tire, including mounting, balancing and disposal costs, in the event of a separation. "The enhanced warranty is like added, immediate insurance, which studies show consumers like and routinely buy," said Keefe. In the event a class member does not want the free replacement tire, the settlement provides a simplified alternative dispute resolution (ADR) process in which the class member has the opportunity to get money instead.
    The second gold standard benefit created by the settlement is an enhanced inspection process to be implemented by Cooper Tire in its manufacturing facilities to ensure that bad tires do not get out to the public, Kanner said. The inspection process, as well as the other benefits provided by the settlement, will be monitored by various auditors, court-appointed compliance monitors, the court and Class Counsel. "This sort of judicial involvement with a court-appointed compliance monitor is unprecedented and could open the door for future injunctive remedies under state consumer fraud laws," said Kanner.
    Finally, the settlement creates a consumer education program funded by Cooper Tire, which will include coordinated education efforts with the National Safety Council and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which will emphasize the importance of tire maintenance and safety.