Firestone Settles 26 Lawsuits in Houston

Monday, March 5th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

HOUSTON – A Houston law firm has settled 26 lawsuits filed by accident victims who alleged that tread separation on tires made by Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. caused Ford Explorers to roll over.

Linda Houssiere, of the firm Houssiere Durant and Houssiere, on Friday confirmed the settlements involving 78 people who either were killed or injured in rollover wrecks. Most were Texans.

Most of the firm's clients, who settled with Firestone at the end of last week, already had settled with Ford Motor Co. in the last few months, Ms. Houssiere said.

The firm still has suits pending against the tire maker and Ford.

The clients "are ecstatic," Ms. 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 Ms. Houssiere's cases was scheduled for trial before June, she said.

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

Bridgestone/Firestone spokeswoman Jill Bratina confirmed the settlement without additional comment.

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 Bridgestone/Firestone plants, especially one in Decatur, Ill.; and differences in 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 a case handled by a different law firm, Donna Bailey, 43, of Corpus Christi – who was left a quadriplegic as a result of an Explorer rollover – settled in January for an undisclosed amount.

The settlement occurred on the eve of her scheduled trial. No tread separation lawsuit against Ford or Bridgestone/Firestone has gone through a trial.