Settlement in Tire Crash Lawsuit

ByMegan K. Stack

C O R P U S  C H R I S T I, Texas, Jan. 8, 2001 -- A settlement has been reached in aparalyzed woman’s lawsuit that would have been the first caseagainst Ford Motor Co. and Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. to go totrial since millions of tires were recalled.

The settlement was announced today by lawyers for Donna Baileyand a spokeswoman for Ford. Financial terms were not disclosed; shehad been seeking $100 million.

The case had been scheduled for jury selection Tuesday.

“We are pleased to have resolved this case with Donna Baileyand we extend our sympathies to her and her family,” said SusanKrusel, a spokeswoman for Ford in Dearborn, Mich.

She said a Ford representative flew to Houston to visit withBailey at a clinic on Sunday night.

Crash Left Her Paralized Below Neck

The 44-year-old Portland, Texas, woman was paralyzed from theneck down in the March 10 crash. Bailey was a passenger in afriend’s Ford Explorer during a rock climbing trip when the vehiclerolled over after treads on a Firestone tire separated. But Fordand Firestone representatives had denied the companies were toblame for the crash.

Bailey’s lawsuit would have been the first involving the highlypublicized allegations against Ford Explorers and Firestone toproceed to trial since a recall of 6.5 million tires last August.

Mikal C. Watts and Tab Turner, attorneys for Bailey, did notimmediately return telephone calls from The Associated Press butissued a statement confirming the settlement was reached.Bridgestone/Firestone did not immediately return calls seekingcomment.

Bailey and her two children, an 18-year-old daughter and15-year-old son, had sued Ford and Bridgestone/Firestone in aCorpus Christi state district court for more than $100 million.

More Than 200 Fatalities Linked to Problem

The tire recall followed a string of rollover accidents, morethan 200 of them fatal, in the United States and several othercountries.

As many as 200 lawsuits have been filed against Ford andFirestone over tire-related crashes. Last month, Ford resolved sixclaims in a single day, and Bruce Kaster, a leading lawyer indefective tire suits, said the company appeared to be movingquickly to resolve the cases.

Bailey, who was a rock climber and weightlifter before herinjuries landed her in the rehabilitation center, had said recentlythat a trial was needed because she wanted “everything to comeout.”

Court officials had summoned 100 Nueces County residents to beprospective jurors in the trial. Bailey’s attorneys had contendedthat defectively manufactured tires and bad vehicle design were toblame for the wreck.

“The Ford Explorer, on these tires, has rolled over and killedmore people than any product in the nation,” Watts said before thesettlement was announced. “It is the largest vehicular productliability crisis in the history of this country. There are hundredsof other similarly situated plaintiffs, government safety officialsand members of Congress all watching this trial.”

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