Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Judge approves Bridgestone-Firestone settlement

By Pam Easton
The Associated Press

HOUSTON - A Texas state court judge Monday approved a $149 million settlement of 30 class-action lawsuits filed on behalf of tire owners against Bridgestone-Firestone North American Tire.

The settlement, approved by State District Judge Donald Floyd, comes more than three years after the 2000 recall of 14.4 million Firestone tires amid safety concerns. More than 100 objectors had contested the settlement.

The lawsuits resolved as part of the settlement include those filed by Firestone ATX, ATX II and Wilderness AT customers whose tires were among those investigated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in 2000.

At least 271 U.S. traffic deaths have been blamed on the tires, most of which were sold with the Ford Explorer. However, the settlement involved only plaintiffs who had not suffered any injuries or property damage.

The settlement calls for Firestone to pay an estimated $70 million to replace tires, $41 million to manufacture certain tires with materials that provide better high-speed capacity, $15.5 million on a consumer education and awareness campaign and $19 million for attorneys' fees. The company also has paid $3.5 million to notify class members of the settlement plan.

"We are pleased with the judge's decision," Firestone spokesman Dan MacDonald said Monday. "We believe that this settlement really is in the best interest of all concerned."

The 45 named plaintiffs each could receive up to $2,500. Those who are not named but owned one of 22 brands of Bridgestone/Firestone tires between 1991 and 2001 qualify to have their tires replaced.

The settlement could affect 15 million drivers and involve about 60 million tires.

Attorney Mitchell Toups said the judge erred in approving the settlement and that he and other objectors plan to appeal the order.

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