CHICAGO (Sept. 11, 2001)—In a major Ford Explorer rollover case that didn't involve Bridgestone/Firestone Inc., Ford Motor Co., Michelin North America Inc., a tire dealer and an auto dealer settled with plaintiffs for $22 million.
The long-running case involved the June 23, 1992, deaths of two teenage girls, Reena Boury and Suzanne Leder, on the Eisenhower Expressway near Chicago's Loop. The Ford Explorer in which they rode was equipped with Michelin all-season tires, size P235/75R15, and one of the tires failed, causing the vehicle to roll over. Ms. Boury and Ms. Leder were killed and two other girls were injured.
Families of the dead and injured girls filed suit about a year later, according to Richard F. Burke Jr., the Chicago attorney who represented them. They claimed that the design of the Explorer, with its high center of gravity, played a large role in the rollover.
They also claimed that Packey Webb Ford in Wheaton, Ill., and Cassidy Tire & Service played a major role in the accident. “The owner wanted to upgrade his tires to the best and safest on the road,” Mr. Burke said. Packey Webb sent the owner to Cassidy Tire, which fitted him with the Michelin all-season tires.
The problem was, according to Mr. Burke, that Ford had expressly discouraged the fitment of Michelin P235 all-season tires on Explorers, although it approved Michelin all-terrain tires in the same size for that vehicle.
“This was not a tread separation, not a tire defect case,” Mr. Burke said, although the plaintiffs did sue Michelin. They accused the Greenville, S.C.-based tire maker of not adequately disseminating the information about the mismatch between the P235 all-season tires and the Explorer.
Packey Webb Ford and Cassidy Tire, however, were held more liable. Both were negligent in fitting the vehicle with the all-season tires despite Ford's explicit warnings, according to the suit.
The settlement was announced at the end of July. Its apportionment was $10.5 million from Packey Webb Ford, $8 million from Ford, $3 million from Cassidy Tire and $500,000 from Michelin.
Ford did not admit to any guilt in the settlement, according to John Krivicich, one of the lawyers who represented Ford. Attorneys for Cassidy Tire and Michelin could not be reached