McALLEN, Texas (Aug. 16, 2001)—The first Ford Explorer-related lawsuit against Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. to come to trial commenced Aug. 13 in the federal district court in McAllen, with the tire maker blaming Ford Motor Co. for the accident cited in the case.
Five members of the Rodriguez family—physician Dr. Joel Rodriguez, his wife Marisa, his son Joelito and brotherJorge—were injured in March 2000 when a Firestone tire on Joel Rodriguez's 1998 Explorer blew out on a Mexican highway. The vehicle rolled over, and Marisa Rodriguez suffered permanent brain damage that has left her wheelchair-bound.
Hoel and Jorge Rodriguez testified about the accident in the early days of the trial. David Laubie, Bridgestone/Firestone executive director of sales engineering, and Harry McMillan, former manager of Bridgestone/Firestone's Decatur, Ill. facility, testified via videotape, according to Reuters and the Associated Press.
The Rodriguezes seek $1 billion from the tire maker. The family already settled with Ford Motor Co. and a local Ford dealer for $6 million, according to the Associated Press.
Ricardo Garcia, the Rodriguezes' attorney, told jurors that Bridgestone/Firestone needed to stop blaming Ford and admit the defect in its own products. But Bridgestone/Firestone attorney Tony Canales noted the original complaint contained 25 different allegations against Ford regarding the Explorer's design.
Bridgestone/Firestone CEO John T. Lampe testified on videotape Aug. 15 that if his company had analyzed earlier the claims data on Firestone ATX and Wilderness AT tires on Ford Explorers, it would have acted sooner to correct the situation.
Bridgestone/Firestone recalled 6.5 million tires last August, five months after the Rodriguezes family members were injured.