Bridgestone trial lawyers blame Explorer, not tires

McALLEN, Texas - Lawyers for Bridgestone-Firestone Inc. during a trial here blamed the Ford Explorer for injuries suffered by a woman in a rollover accident.

In the first tire-tread separation case to go to trial since the August 2000 recall of 6.5 million Firestone tires, lawyers for Marisa Rodriguez accuse Bridgestone/Firestone of making defective tires for her 1998 Ford Explorer. According to court testimony, Rodriguez, who is seeking $1 billion, is wheelchair-bound and has difficulty swallowing or conversing as a result of an accident.

The widely covered trial created more bad headlines for Ford, which is trying to uphold the image of one of its most profitable nameplates.

Ford settled with Rodriguez, 39, and her family for $6 million last month. Therefore, Ford lawyers were not participating in the trial.

Lawyer Knox Nunnally, representing Bridgestone/Firestone, told the jury during his opening statement that while tire failures are to be expected, catastrophic injuries happen only when the vehicle is defective.

Rodriguez's lawyer, Tab Turner, told the jury that the tire company has ducked responsibility for accidents and deaths that he said were caused by the recalled tires.

Federal safety officials have linked the tires to 203 deaths and more than 700 injuries.

You can reach John K. Teahen Jr. at autonews@crain.com

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