Duncan said she’d asked Flax why they couldn’t sue Goodyear over the tire, but claims the attorney considered litigation against the tire company “impossible.” (Flax didn’t respond to requests for comment.)

As a result, the family never contacted Goodyear to file a claim over the accident, Duncan said. And after spending what she estimated to be $20,000 on the attorney, Duncan said she eventually decided it was too much. “I didn’t have any more money,” he said.

The family moved on from the case until earlier this year, when Duncan and Leanne Lillefloren stopped by a going away party for the son of Leanne’s best friend. While there, an acquaintance sat down at a table next to them and, according to Leanne, said: “I thought you’d want to see this.”

Goodyear has settled at least 41 lawsuits pertaining to G159-related crashes.
Goodyear has settled at least 41 lawsuits pertaining to G159-related crashes.
Photo: Justin Sullivan (Getty)

It was a report from Jalopnik, they said, about a spate of fatal crashes involving the G159, and the long-running effort by an Arizona attorney to get regulators to examine the tire.

“Twenty minutes later, Nichole and I are looking at each other,” Lillefloren said. “Nichole leaves the party because she’s so angry that she had spent all this time and energy trying to prove that something was wrong. And then this article.”

Duncan kept saying “that tire number sounds familiar,” Lillefloren said. After Duncan returned home later that night, she forwarded a copy of the accident report to her step-sister and confirmed: “It’s the same tire.”

“I was pissed,” Duncan said. “I was mad, I couldn’t sleep the rest of the night. I was so angry.”

They spoke with an attorney about filing possible legal action, but soon realized it was a nearly-impossible gambit. Still, Duncan and Lillefloren think Goodyear should be held accountable for the number of accidents linked to the tire. The recent reports about the G159 have rekindled the unsettled feelings they shared so many years ago.

“Our family has endured a lot of loss,” Lillefloren said. “To have somebody taken for that reason, that bothers me more.”

Duncan added, “Our kids don’t have a memory of their grandparents.”

The family recently wrote to attorney Kurtz in Arizona, summarizing their story and the reason they’d contemplated speaking out.

“At the time, as we tried to process our shock and grief, and understand how this could have happened, we of course had no way of knowing about the history with this tire,” the letter said.

“Ruth’s death seemed so shocking and senseless. We did everything we thought we could at the time. We requested vehicle safety reports, hired lawyers and engineering experts, all trying to determine if there might be some kind of product liability lawsuit we could bring, and we came up empty.”

Even if a lawsuit isn’t possible, the letter said, “we still want you to be aware of her story, of our story, if it might help you hold Goodyear accountable somewhere.”

At the very least, the family said, with everything captured by the lawsuits and reports that showed how Goodyear managed to keep a lid on evidence about the G159 through the use of secret settlements, they now “know why we came up empty.”

Despite never having met Kurtz, they thanked him for his work.

“It would have meant a great deal to Dennis,” the letter said, “if he had lived long enough, to know what we know now about the G159 tire.”

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