Settlement in Tire Crash Lawsuit

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

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

The case had been scheduled for jury selection Tuesday.

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

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

Crash Left Her Paralized Below Neck

The 44-year-old Portland, Texas, woman was paralyzed from the neck down in the March 10 crash. Bailey was a passenger in a friend’s Ford Explorer during a rock climbing trip when the vehicle rolled over after treads on a Firestone tire separated. But Ford and Firestone representatives had denied the companies were to blame for the crash.

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

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

Bailey and her two children, an 18-year-old daughter and 15-year-old son, had sued Ford and Bridgestone/Firestone in a Corpus 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, more than 200 of them fatal, in the United States and several other countries.

As many as 200 lawsuits have been filed against Ford and Firestone over tire-related crashes. Last month, Ford resolved six claims in a single day, and Bruce Kaster, a leading lawyer in defective tire suits, said the company appeared to be moving quickly to resolve the cases.

Bailey, who was a rock climber and weightlifter before her injuries landed her in the rehabilitation center, had said recently that a trial was needed because she wanted “everything to come out.”

Court officials had summoned 100 Nueces County residents to be prospective jurors in the trial. Bailey’s attorneys had contended that defectively manufactured tires and bad vehicle design were to blame for the wreck.

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