McALLEN, Texas (Aug. 21, 2001) – The first product liability lawsuit against Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. (BFS) to come to trial is expected to go to the jury later today.
Dr. Joel Rodriguez filed the $1 billion suit in federal district court in McAllen, alleging that faulty Firestone Wilderness AT tires caused his 1998 Ford Explorer to roll over on a Mexican highway. Five members of the Rodriguez family—including Dr. Rodriguez, his wife Marisa, his son Joelito and brother Jorge—were injured in the March 2000 accident. Marisa Rodriguez, suffered permanent brain damage that has left her paralyzed for life.
Closing arguments in the week-long case were scheduled to be heard today. Witnesses for the plaintiffs have testified that BFS knew tread separation was a problem long before last year's recall of 6.5 million tires. The plaintiffs also have claimed that Bridgestone/Firestone could have reduced tread separation rates on Firestone tires if it had built nylon caps into the tires, according to Associated Press reports.
In testimony via videotape Aug. 15 and in person Aug. 17, Bridgestone/Firestone Chairman John T. Lampe said that if the tire maker had analyzed earlier the claims data on Firestone ATX and Wilderness AT tires on Explorers, it would have acted sooner to correct the situation.
Before the Rodriguez lawsuit went to trial, the family settled with the Ford Motor Co. and a local Ford dealer for $6 million, the Associated Press reported.