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Tiremaker Settles Texas Suits Involving 78 People

Mar 2, 2001 | AP

Twenty-six lawsuits filed by accident victims who alleged tread separation on tires made by Bridgestone/Firestone caused their rollover crashes have been settled for an undisclosed amount, a Houston law firm and the tiremaker said.

Linda Houssiere, of the firm Houssiere Durant and Houssiere, confirmed Friday the settlements involving 78 people who either were killed or injured in rollover wrecks. Most were Texans. Bridgestone/Firestone spokeswoman Jill Bratina confirmed the settlement without additional comment.

Terms of the confidential settlements were not revealed by Houssiere or Firestone, although the attorney said her firm's clients received "a premium."

The lawsuits, filed in Harris and other counties around Texas, alleged tread separation in Firestone tires caused Ford Explorers to roll over.

Most of the firm's clients, who settled with Firestone at the end of last week, already had settled with Ford Motor in the last few months, Houssiere said. The firm still has suits pending against the tiremaker and Ford.

"(The clients) are ecstatic," Houssiere said. "I've done a lot of thinking about that, and I think it's because litigation didn't go on so long. They weren't put through depositions, hearings, or long protracted waiting. I've never seen clients so happy as these, because they didn't have time for animosity to build up."

None of Houssiere's cases was scheduled for trial before June, she said.

In August 2000, Firestone recalled 6.5 million tires after reports of hundreds of rollover accidents nationwide involving the combination of Firestone tires and Ford sport utility vehicles.

An outside consultant hired by Bridgestone/Firestone issued a study last month that found hot weather was a primary factor in the tire failures, but other factors included design; manufacturing differences among different Bridgestone/Firestone plants, especially the Decatur, Ill., plant; and usage.

Sanjay Govindjee, a civil engineer at the University of California-Berkeley, reached conclusions similar to those arrived at in December by the tire company's internal investigators.

In another Texas case handled by different law firm, Donna Bailey, 43, of Corpus Christi left a quadriplegic as a result of an Explorer rollover settled in January for an undisclosed amount with Firestone before her trial began.

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