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Firestone, Ford Settle Suit In Crash Killing Civil Rights Leader

Jan 7, 2003 | AP

Bridgestone-Firestone and Ford Motor Co. settled a lawsuit Monday with two people injured in a wreck that killed a civil rights leader.

The companies did not settle with Earl Shinhoster's widow, Ruby, and the trial of her wrongful death claims was to continue today with jury selection.

Attorneys and others involved would not discuss the settlement because Macon County Circuit Judge Howard Bryan placed them under a gag order until after the trial. The settlement was confirmed by several sources close to the case who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Shinhoster, a former NAACP acting executive director in Atlanta, was a passenger in a Ford Explorer that overturned on June 11, 2000, on Interstate 85.

The Explorer was part of a security motorcade traveling 80 mph in a 70 mph zone carrying Shinhoster to Montgomery. Traveling in another vehicle was the first lady of Liberia, Jewel Howard-Taylor.

The lawsuit is one of many filed in accidents involving alleged failure of Firestone tires and Ford Explorer rollovers. Joining Shinhoster's wife in the suit were passenger Samimah Aziz and driver Ademah Hackshaw. Aziz, a goddaughter of the Rev. Jesse Jackson, suffered serious injuries and Hackshaw minor injuries.

Aziz, who now walks with a cane, got word of the settlement Monday as attorneys came into the courtroom and congratulated her.

The lawsuit claims a tire blew out and ''disintegrated,'' and that Bridgestone-Firestone knew the tire was defective. The lawsuit also claims Ford was at fault because defects allegedly caused the vehicle to roll over after the blowout.

Earlier Monday, Ford released a statement saying excessive speed and an old tire contributed to the crash. The statement added that Aziz was not wearing a seat belt, and rescue workers had difficulty removing Shinhoster from the vehicle.

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