HOUSTON—In two separate actions, Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. and Ford Motor Co. settled nearly 30 Texas lawsuits involving accidents with Ford Explorers equipped with Firestone tires.
Bridgestone/Firestone announced March 2 the settlement of 26 lawsuits filed with the Houston law firm of Houssiere, Durant & Houssiere. Three days earlier, on Feb. 27, Ford announced it had reached a settlement with Jim and Cathy Taylor, the parents of a 14-year-old girl who was killed in a rollover accident in October 1998.
A BFS spokeswoman said her company had settled with the Taylors about a month before the Ford settlement. Linda Houssiere, a plaintiff's attorney, said Ford settled most of the 26 cases in the last few months before the BFS settlement was announced.
Although the terms of none of the settlements were revealed, Ms. Houssiere said her clients received "a premium" for settling.
Most of the Houssiere cases were filed in Texas state courts, and most were listed in the 200-plus consolidated cases in the federal district court in Indianapolis, Ms. Houssiere said. The firm still has "a few" cases against BFS to be adjudicated, she added.
"Many of our clients are ecstatic over the settlements, and nobody has said he's not pleased," Ms. Houssiere said. "Quite a few of them expressed joy in a way I haven't seen related to a product liability case. I guess it's because the cases are still very early along in the process, so there hasn't been time to develop the animosity that develops in cases like this."
In the Taylor case, Jessica Taylor was riding in her friend's mother's Explorer in October 1998 when one of the tires suffered a tread separation. The vehicle spun out of control and rolled over, killing Jessica.
Besides acknowledging the settlement, the BFS spokeswoman objected to press reports which stated that the tire maker had started putting cap plies on all ATX and Wilderness AT tires because of this particular lawsuit.
"We're looking at tire enhancements, but cap plies haven't gone on ATX or Wilderness tires except for those with heat ratings," she said. "This settlement had nothing to do with cap plies."
There are now more than 200 lawsuits against Bridgestone/Firestone consolidated in the federal district court in Indianapolis.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration now reports more than 6,500 incidents and 174 deaths connected with Firestone tires.
Last month, BFS reported that it had replaced more than 6.2 million of the estimated 6.5 million recalled ATX and Wilderness tires still on the road as of Aug. 9, the day the recall began.