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Settlement Reached in Firestone Trial

Aired August 24, 2001 - 11:27   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
STEPHEN FRAZIER, CNN ANCHOR: We are just receiving word now from McAllen, Texas that there has been a settlement for an undisclosed amount after money in the trial brought by the Rodriguez family of Texas against the Bridgestone-Firestone tire company. This is another of those episodes of a Ford Explorer rollover accident, which in this case left Mrs. Rodriguez paralyzed for life. She has brought an earlier brought earlier lawsuit against Ford Motor Company, maker of the Ford Explorer. They settled for $6 million. Representatives of the tire company testified in this case that it was the design of the Explorer that caused the accident that led to Mrs. Rodriguez' condition, and not in any flaw in the Bridgestone-Firestone tire which the Explorer was equipped. As it happens, other experts were testifying that it was a tread separation due to faulty tire design and manufacture that led to their accident.

Our Ed Lavandera, who's been following that case closely, reporting every day on it,. We believe in a few moments we will turn to Ed for more details about this. But it's just one of a series of cases in which families are explaining their SUVs, sport utility vehicles, have been causing problems. Bridgestone-Firestone has been tabbed with some of the problems, because of the manufacturing defects reported. They recalled millions of tires, as you recall starting, about a year ago now.

For some background on the dynamics of this case, let's turn to Ed Lavandera now.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When the tire on this Ford Explorer peeled apart on a Mexican highway last year, the Rodriguez family couldn't imagine their story would commend national attention. What happened to them would be part of battle between two multi-billion dollar corporations.

About 400 lawsuits have been filed in the wake of Ford Explorer rollovers where Firestone's tires were involved; 203 people have died in these accidents. Firestone have argued in this case, the Ford Explorer is difficult to control when the tread separates from the tire. Bridgestone-Firestone CEO John Lampe appeared in person to make that pint. He told the jury, if anyone experiences tread separation driving, they should be able to pull over, not roll over.

Firestone attorney say no problems were reported when other vehicle models used the Wilderness AT tires. In the Rodriguez case, Firestone says an unknown object struck the tire, causing the tread to separate, but the tire was not defective when it left Firestone's hands. The Rodriguez family attorney says Firestone is in a state of denial about the quality of its tires.

A tire experts for the plaintiff called the Wilderness AT unreasonably dangerous, arguing Firestone knew of inexpensive ways of making the tire safer.

Forty-year-old Marisa Rodriguez is confined to wheelchair now, and she'll have to learn to walk again. With hundreds of lawsuits still pending against Firestone and Ford, this south Texas case isn't the last fight left for the two corporate heavyweights.

Ed Lavandera, CNN, McAllen, Texas.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FRAZIER: And as we explain, there has been an agreement reached, a settlement between the Rodriguez family that Ed Lavandera was reporting on and Bridgestone-Firestone tire company. We'll bring you more details of that settlement as we get them throughout the day.

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