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Grand jury investigating Goodyear recreational vehicle tires

DETROIT (AP) — A federal grand jury in Los Angeles is gathering evidence in a criminal investigation of Goodyear recreational vehicle tires that the government blames for crashes that killed eight people and injured dozens of others.

The grand jury has subpoenaed Arizona lawyer David Kurtz seeking all documents and deposition transcripts in a lawsuit he filed against the Akron, Ohio, tire maker.

A letter accompanying the Jan. 4 subpoena says it was issued in an “official criminal investigation being conducted by the Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General.” It also says the Justice Department’s Consumer Protection Branch in Washington is involved, as well as the U.S. Attorney in Los Angeles.

Documents from Kurtz’s lawsuit touched off a 2017 investigation of the tires by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that resulted in a recall last year. The documents also revealed that Goodyear knew the G159 RV tire could fail and cause severe crashes, yet it didn’t recall them for as many as 20 years.

The Justice Department and the DOT Inspector General wouldn’t comment on the probe.

In a statement, Goodyear didn’t address the federal investigation, but maintained there’s no safety defect with the tires. The company said it recalled the tires to address risks that happen when they are underinflated or overloaded. “This tire hasn’t been made since 2003, it consistently met Goodyear’s demanding safety standards,” the statement said.

Kurtz confirmed that he received the subpoena and provided copies of it and the accompanying letter.

The DOT Inspector General says on its website its agents have federal law enforcement authority to conduct criminal investigations, including the ability to make arrests, execute search warrants and carry firearms. “Where appropriate, we make referrals for prosecution to the Department of Justice or state and local prosecuting authorities,” the office said in a statement.