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Woman Awarded Damages in Crash

Los Angeles Times

August 28, 1998

A Superior Court jury awarded $10 million to a woman who was crushed by a van after a tire blowout while traveling from a South-Central Los Angeles church to a religious convention in Ohio, attorneys said Wednesday.

Shirlee Fuller, 39, and two other members of the Bethany Apostolic Church were traveling to a Pentecostal national convention in Cleveland in 1993 when their church van crashed, according to Fuller’s attorney, Brian Panish. The three were going to sell church books and pamphlets at the convention.

Two hours outside of Albuquerque, N.M., a tire blew out, throwing Fuller out and sending the van rolling over until it landed on top of her, Panish said. Fuller needed her hip and pelvis rebuilt after the accident, he said.

The jury found the church responsible for the accident and awarded damages Tuesday afternoon.

Only days before the accident, a church representative had taken the van to a tire store and replaced three of its four tires, Panish said. The old tire was the one that blew out.

The church representative maintained that he was told the fourth tire did not need replacing, Panish said.

But a retail manager testified it was store policy to recommend replacing tires in pairs.

The church’s attorney, Jack Tannenbaum, said he was astonished that the jury did not find the tire company responsible.

He declined to comment on the amount of the award, but said the church will probably appeal.

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