WASHINGTON-Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. finds itself facing 10 new personal injury lawsuits, plus a suit from Sears, Roebuck and Co. demanding that BFS keep its promise to pay tire-related damage awards and legal costs related to the recall of Firestone light truck tires.
The Jacksonville law firm of Pajcic & Pajcic filed 10 personal-injury lawsuits against BFS and Ford on behalf of 13 plaintiffs June 28. The same day, a Jacksonville TV station interviewed some of the plaintiffs about their grievances against the companies and the extent of their injuries.
Days earlier, on June 21, Sears filed a motion before Judge Sarah Evans Barker of the Indianapolis federal district court. The judge has more than 200 Ford-Firestone personal injury lawsuits consolidated in her court, and Sears wants her to order BFS to honor an agreement to indemnify Sears in case of losses related to tread separation in Firestone tires.
Sears has been named as a co-defendant in 11 lawsuits with Ford and BFS. In eight of those cases, Sears sold the failed tires to customers, a spokesman for Sears said.
The contract Sears signed with BFS in 1997 contains an indemnity clause stating that Sears will not be responsible for any costs or damages related to deaths or injuries caused by BFS-made tires.
``We are asking that that clause be honored,'' the Sears spokesman said. ``I wouldn't read too much into this. This is simply a matter of litigation, and I'm sure each side will do what is best for their company.''
Sears has ``a good relationship with Firestone,'' he added, ``and we are optimistic we can come to an agreement.''
A Bridgestone/Firestone spokeswoman acknowledged the indemnity clause in the Sears contract, but said the tire maker is taking every lawsuit ``on a case-by-case basis.'' As the cases progress, she said, ``we will be making determinations, and will certainly be honoring our contracts if the responsibility resides with us.''
There was no word on how many Firestone tires Sears sells annually, or what percentage Sears has of the Firestone-brand replacement market. The BFS spokeswoman told the Associated Press, however, that Sears is not one of Firestone's largest retailers.