The Tucson Superior Court awarded a Tucson family $9.5 million for the wrongful death of their 6-year-old daughter in the case of a rental van equipped with an allegedly defective Firestone tire.
Bridgestone/Firestone, though not held liable in the case, claimed it wasn't allowed its day in court to demonstrate that the tire wasn't defective after all.
``We now know the tire was damaged due to misuse, underinflation and misapplication,'' the tire maker said in a prepared statement.
The Superior Court jury found APS Rent-a-Car Inc. liable Feb. 4 for sending the Naranjo family out on a defective tire and not informing the Naranjos of a previous incident with the same model of tire on the same vehicle.
Arecili Naranjo was killed Feb. 20, 2000, near Casa Grande, Ariz., when the rented Chevy Astro in which she was riding swerved into a median and rolled over three times. Her parents were injured in the accident, which was caused by a Firestone F-570 tire mounted on the vehicle that lost its tread, according to testimony.
During a previous rental, another Firestone F-570 lost its tread and nearly caused the Astro to hit a truck, the Naranjos claimed. APS replaced the tire and rented the van to the Naranjos.
``This tragic accident was caused because the rental agency did not take appropriate care of the tire and disregarded recommendations to have the tire examined,'' BFS said in its statement.
``If the rental agency pursues an action to collect any portion of the verdict from Firestone, the company will get its first opportunity to present its side of the story,'' the tire maker added. ``When all the facts are known, Firestone is confident it will be exonerated completely.''
The F-570 is not one of the 6.5 million tires recalled by BFS in August 2000, or the 13 million replaced by Ford Motor Co. starting in May 2001. Those recalls involved tires fitted on Ford sport-utility vehicles and pickups. Neither Steven Copple, attorney for the Naranjos, nor Steve Lesher, attorney for APS, could be reached for comment.