TORONTO-The first Canadian class-action suit to be brought against Ford Motor Co. and Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. has been filed in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice.
The action was brought May 9 by the Toronto law firms of Rochon Genova, and Zarek, Taylor, Grossman and Hanrahan, on behalf of Michelle Rambharos of Brompton, Ontario. Ms. Rambharos was injured when her 1996 Ford Explorer, equipped with Firestone tires, suffered a tire failure and rolled over.
Firestone ATX, ATX II, Firehawk ATX, ATX 23 Degree, Widetrack Radial Baja and Wilderness tires ``have an unreasonably dangerous propensity to fail,'' according to the complaint. Other Firestone tires of similar manufacture or design may also ``unexpectedly rupture or suffer complete or substantial tread separation,'' it claimed.
The suit also alleges that the Ford Explorer presents an unreasonable rollover risk. ``The tire defect and the rollover defect work in combination with each other, and are synergistic,'' it said.
Ford and Bridgestone/Firestone ``acted together to conceal these defects and to prevent knowledge of such defects from reaching public authorities in Canada and the United States,'' it added.
No analysis has been performed yet to determine the number of consumers in Canada who are entitled to be part of the class action, but it is ``potentially a huge number,'' said Joel Rochon of Rochon Genova.
The attorneys in charge of the case will file certification materials with the Ontario court over ``the next couple of months,'' Mr. Rochon said, and the court should set a date for the certification hearing within that time period. A number of class-action lawsuits-the precise total was unavailable-have already been filed in the U.S.
``I think we'll be in a position to benefit from the U.S. discovery process,'' Mr. Rochon said. ``There will be a definite opportunity to share information.''
But it is very unlikely that the Canadian action will be combined with any U.S. suit, because ``we have our own courts and our own system of justice,'' he said.
A Ford spokesman said the auto maker has not yet been served with the Canadian complaint and therefore couldn't comment.
``We are a consumer company, and we are always concerned when one of our customers is injured in an accident involving one of our products,'' he said.
``We took extraordinary measures to replace faulty tires with good ones,'' he added, referring to the recall of 6.5 million Firestone tires which began Aug. 9.
Commenting on the Canadian suit, a BFS spokeswoman said the company stands by the August recall. She called the accidents resulting from failed Firestone tires ``a tragedy,'' and said the company was ``looking forward'' to working with the Canadian plaintiffs and attorneys.
``There are some of the same issues with that lawsuit as with many of the others,'' she said. ``As in the U.S., we will be working with the plaintiffs and their attorneys to achieve an outcome which will be fair and equitable for all parties.''
Plaintiffs have filed more than 200 personal injury suits against Bridgestone/Firestone and Ford because of accidents involving the Ford Explorer and original equipment Firestone tires.