WASHINGTON (June 21, 2001)—As Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. CEO John T. Lampe testified before Congress June 19, his company was serving papers in one legal action and was being served with them in another.
A Fort Lauderdale, Fla. family slapped BFS with a $1 billion personal injury lawsuit over the deaths of their mother and father, while BFS subpoenaed Goodyear in Indianapolis federal district court to hand over its failure rates on Goodyear tires supplied to the Ford Explorer and Ranger.
Edelio and Norma Herrera were killed May 30, 2000 on the Florida Turnpike. The Firestone right rear tire on their 1997 Ford Explorer suffered a tread separation, causing the vehicle to overturn. The Herreras' son Evelio, daughter-in-law Milagros and one-year-old grandson Antonio were severely injured in the crash.
B. Willie Gary, senior partner in the Stuart, Fla. law firm of Gary Williams Parenti, filed the suit June 18 in the Martin County Circuit Court in Stuart. In the suit, Gary accused BFS of knowing about tread separations as early as 1992, but ignoring employee warnings about faulty quality control and manufacturing practices.
“Since the problems came to a head in August last year, Firestone has continuously played the blame game, putting profits before people,” Mr. Gary said in a press release.
“We take very seriously any accidents in which our tires are involved, and our sympathies go out to those who were involved in the accident,” BFS said in a prepared statement. “But accidents happen for a number of reasons. What specifically happened here will be addressed in the judicial process.”
The following day, BFS subpoenaed Goodyear in the Indianapolis court, where more than 200 personal injury cases against the Nashville-based tire maker are consolidated under Judge Sarah Evans Barker.
Over the past month, Ford CEO Jacques Nasser has reiterated claims data which, he says, shows that the 2.9 million Goodyear tires that were original equipment on Ford Explorers between 1995 and 1997 had only two tread separation claims, whereas the same number of Firestone OE tires had 1,183.
“We want to know what we are being compared against,” a BFS spokeswoman told Bloomberg News. A BFS spokesman in Nashville confirmed the subpoena was issued, but had no further information.
Spokesmen for Goodyear, which has 14 days to respond to the subpoena, could not be reached for comment.