FIRESTONE settles upcoming tire tread separation case; Ford still faces trial

Thursday, August 30th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) _ Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. has settled the next lawsuit scheduled for trial over a tire tread separation on a Ford Explorer that rolled over, the company said.

Terms were not disclosed Wednesday by Christine Karbowiak, spokeswoman for the Nashville-based tire maker.

The trial had been set for Sept. 10 in Brownsville, Texas, in the lawsuit over the death of Margarita Gonzalez and injury of her son Alfredo during a crash last year near Kerrville, Texas.

Paula Wyatt, lead attorney for the plaintiffs, could not be reached for comment about the settlement in the Gonzalez case. Skip Rutherford, a spokesman for the family, would not confirm that a settlement had been made.

Bridgestone/Firestone's first such trial ended abruptly last week when the tire maker agreed to pay $7.5 million on top of the $350,000 it had already paid to cover medical expenses for Marisa Rodriguez, who was left paralyzed and brain-damaged in a crash.

Ford Motor Co. settled that case beforehand and wasn't involved in the trial.

Ford spokesman Ken Zino said that the Detroit automaker is in talks with attorneys for the Gonzalez family: ``If we can reach an agreement to settle, we'd like to.''

Bridgestone/Firestone, a subsidiary of Japan's Bridgestone Corp., agreed last summer to recall 6.5 million tires. Ford said it would replace an additional 13 million Firestone tires sold with its vehicles.

Accidents involving Firestone tires on Explorers have been linked to more than 200 deaths and 700 injuries.