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Sears "Believed It Handled The Tire Correcty", Weighs Appeal in Firestone Dueler APT $29 Million Verdict

HOUSTON, July 5 Reuters reported that Retailer Sears, Roebuck & Co. said on Friday it is weighing an appeal against its share of a $29 million jury award to the family of a man killed in an auto rollover accident involving a Bridgestone/Firestone tire.

A state jury in Orange, Texas, assessed 35 percent of the damages against Sears, which sold and later repaired the tire, and 65 percent against the manufacturer Bridgestone/Firestone.

The dead man's family had already reached a confidential settlement with Bridgestone/Firestone, a unit of Japan's Bridgestone Corp.

Sears said it disagreed with the jury's verdict and believed it handled the tire correctly. "We are considering our options and that certainly would include the possibility of an appeal," company spokeswoman Jan Drummond said.

Attorney Richard Mithoff, who represented the Bryan, Texas family of Terry Tripp, said he believed this was the first case involving Bridgestone/Firestone tires to result in a jury verdict since a massive recall of Firestone tires in 2000.

Federal regulators have linked rollover accidents involving Ford Explorers and Firestone tires to 271 deaths and more than 800 injuries.

Ford and Bridgestone/Firestone say they have recalled and replaced nearly 30 million of those tires since issuing a recall some two years ago.

Mithoff said the Texas jury's verdict was a clear signal that Bridgestone/Firestone and Sears should seriously consider extending the recall to include Dueler APT tires.

The Orange County jury reached its verdict in the case late Wednesday.

Mithoff said Judge Pat Clark will likely reduce the amount of the overall award to Tripp's family to reflect the prior settlement with the manufacturer.

Numerous similar cases have previously been settled before they went to trial, most of them involving Firestone Wilderness AT and ATX tires fitted to Ford Explorer vehicles.

Tripp's family accused Sears of negligence in failing to properly repair or replace the tire and also alleged that the Bridgestone/Firestone Dueler APT tire was defective in its design and manufacture. Tripp was a passenger in a Chevrolet Blazer fitted with Dueler APT tires in September 2000 when the tread on one of the tires separated, causing it to veer off the road and overturn, according to the plaintiffs.