Texas jury begins deliberations in Bridgestone/Firestone case involving rollover
McALLEN, Texas (AP) – Deliberations began Tuesday in a $1 billion liability lawsuit against Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. stemming from a rollover accident that left a Texas woman paralyzed.
The judge asked jurors to determine whether the Firestone Wilderness AT tire had a manufacturing defect because of poor design and negligence.
”This tire has killed more people than Timothy McVeigh. That is the awesome nature of the tragedy,” Mikal Watts, a lawyer for Joel Rodriguez, said in closing arguments.
The lawsuit was brought by Rodriguez, a physician whose wife, Marisa, was left brain-damaged and in a wheelchair after the crash of a Ford Explorer with Firestone tires on a Mexican road last year.
More than 200 deaths and 800 injuries in the United States have been blamed on Explorers rolling over after the tread on a Firestone peeled away. This is the first such lawsuit to go to trial.
Rodriguez’s lawyers contend Bridgestone/Firestone knew tread separation was a problem on its tires long before it recalled 6.5 million of them last summer.
Firestone lawyers, however, have blamed the crash on Ford Motor Co., saying the faulty design of the Explorer SUV made tires lose their tread. They said any other vehicle wouldn’t have rolled over after a similar tire failure.
Firestone lawyer Knox Nunnally presented internal Ford correspondence from 1988 that he said showed the automaker knew early on about the faulty design of the Explorer.
Nunnally said the correspondence showed high fatality rates in rollover crashes involving its Bronco II, forerunner to the Explorer. The documents show that even company test drivers had difficulty handling the Explorer, he said.
”It is their job,” Nunnally said, referring to the injured woman’s family, ”to prove with a preponderance of evidence that the tire was defective. We believe they have not yet done that.”
Firestone attorney Tony Canales suggested that the jury should find Ford liable for $6.5 million in damages – even though Ford is not a defendant, having settled out of court for $6 million.
The nine-member jury deliberated less than two hours before recessing. Deliberations are scheduled to resume Wednesday.
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