INDIANAPOLIS—Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. has asked U.S. District Court Judge Sarah Evans Barker to dismiss an estimated 80 proposed federal class-action lawsuits filed against the company.
The lawsuits, filed in connection with the Aug. 9 recall of 6.5 million Firestone tires, represent 220 named plaintiffs seeking cash payments from BFS and Ford Motor Co. The plaintiffs also are requesting a court order to expand BFS' recall of Firestone ATX, ATX II and Wilderness AT tires.
BFS filed its legal briefs, which were co-signed by Ford, Jan. 29 in the Indianapolis federal court—the location where various class-action suits were consolidated under a "master complaint" to coordinate the pre-trial phase of federal cases against Bridgestone/Firestone and Ford.
The plaintiffs have up to 45 days to respond to the tire maker's motions to dismiss, then BFS has 20 days to file reply briefs, said Anthony Prather, BFS division general counsel.
A ruling from Judge Barker would come shortly thereafter.
The plaintiffs, many of whom are Ford Explorer owners, have never experienced personal injury or financial loss from driving on Firestone tires, and therefore have nothing for the law to remedy, according to Mr. Prather.
Furthermore, the plaintiffs re-ported no tread separations from the Firestone tires that came on their vehicles and received free replacements during the recall.
"We think we have a good argument," Mr. Prather said. "There's a substantial amount of federal and state case law that says that if you don't have an injury, you can't sue. You can't sue because something might happen to you in the future."
The Nashville, Tenn.-based tire maker's briefs state that the courts repeatedly have rejected plaintiffs' claims that a product may fail in the future, since a flood of such lawsuits would dramatically raise the cost of consumer products over problems that are speculative.
The plaintiffs' attorneys also are arguing that the residual value of their Explorers has dropped dramatically because of the vehicle's rollover potential and the recall, Mr. Prather told Tire Business. However, no one in the class has alleged in the complaint that they lost money when they tried to sell their SUVs, he noted.
"Again, the law is pretty clear that you can't recover on speculation that you'll suffer loss in the future," Mr. Prather said.
In November, Automotive Lease Guide, the auto industry benchmark for used-car values, lowered the 36-month residual value of the 2000 and 2001 Explorer by more than $600 because of the recall, according to Automotive News, a sister publication of Tire Business.
To date, Bridgestone/Firestone has replaced approximately 6.1 million P235/75R15 tires. One attorney for the plaintiffs argued in court that those 6.1 million replacements should be recalled because of potential problems for tread separations, Mr. Prather said, noting "that there are no facts to support that argument."
BFS also contends that only the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration—and not the court—has the authority to issue an expanded recall.
The tire company's motions for dismissal do not affect other class-action lawsuits also under Judge Barker's jurisdiction that involve personal injury and death claims.