Firestone To Import Tires From Japan

A class-action lawsuit filed by a Cincinnati attorney says a recall of 6.5 million Firestone tires is intentionally confusing and risks lives because it discourages motorists from seeking replacements.

The lawsuit against Ford Motor Co. and Nashville, Tenn.-based Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. was filed Friday in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court by attorney Stanley Chesley.

“Everybody is getting some sort of runaround,” Chesley said in an interview published Saturday in the Cincinnati Enquirer.

Bridgestone/Firestone announced a rolling recall Aug. 9 of 6.5 million P235/75R15 size radial ATX and ATX II brands, as well as Wilderness AT tires of the same size made at a plant in Decatur, Ill. The tires are mostly on Ford trucks and sport utility vehicles.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is investigating 62 deaths and 100 injuries that could be linked to the tires. Investigators say 80 percent of the accidents occurred when the tire treads came apart, causing the vehicles to roll over or spin out of control.

Doing All They Can

Both companies claim they are working as quickly as they can to get the tires replaced, but Chesley’s lawsuit claims the companies are not doing enough.

The suit accuses the companies of restricting the availability of replacement tires and limiting the number of customers eligible to receive them.

Chesley said the companies apparently want the recall process to be difficult so customers don’t bother getting new tires. He said the companies save about $500 in tires and labor every time a customer decides not to take part in the recall.

“They are discouraging people from coming in,” Chesley said.

But Ford and Bridgestone/Firestone said Saturday that they are doing all they can to get the new tires to their customers.

“We’ve seen a few class action attorneys trying to capitalize on this situation after the” recall, Ford spokeswoman Susan Krusel said Saturday. “But right now, Ford is helping Firestone. We’re working around the clock. Our No. 1 priority right now is to resolve this issue for our customers.”

“We want to make sure the tires get replaced as quickly as possible and we’re taking extraordinary steps to make sure that happens,” said Ken Fields, a spokesman for Bridgestone/Firestone in St. Louis.

He said the company has doubled production of tires in the United States, increased imports and is reimbursing customers for buying competitors’ tires.

Chesley’s lawsuit claims that a court order to improve the recall process is the only way to protect motorists’ lives.

“Ohio residents cannot rely on either Ford or Firestone to protect the interests of Ohio drivers,” the lawsuit states.

The suit also asks for unspecified money damages.

Chesley said he will work with attorneys in Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia to expand his class-action suit. Eventually, it may be linked to similar suits in other states, he said.

Messages seeking additional comment from Chesley were left at his home and office on Saturday.