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AP Reports Federal Judge Dismisses Ford Shareholders' Suit Over Explorer Safety

DETROIT An reports that a federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed against Ford Motor Co. [NYSE:F - news] by a group of investors who alleged the automaker made misleading statements regarding the quality and safety of the Ford Explorer.

The plaintiffs had argued that Ford failed to disclose information about the danger of Firestone ATX tires on the sport utility vehicles and projected costs from future liability judgments or recalls prior to Aug. 9, 2000.

On that date, Bridgestone/Firestone Corp. recalled 6.5 million Wilderness AT, ATX and ATX II tires, most of which were installed as original equipment on Ford Explorers.

Ford voluntarily participated in the recall and last May launched its own program to buy back an additional 13 million Wilderness AT tires at an after-tax cost of $3 billion.

U.S. District Judge Arthur Tarnow ruled Monday that ``the plaintiffs identify certain statements that are vague, corporate puffery or inaccurate.''

Tarnow said Ford may not have been able to predict the recall or litigation prior to the Bridgestone/Firestone recall.

``Companies are under no duty to disclose predictions that are not substantially certain to hold,'' he wrote.

Ford spokeswoman Kathleen Vokes said the company agrees with the court.

``The data backs up the court's ruling in that the Explorer is one of the safest vehicles on the road,'' Vokes said Wednesday.

The federal government has said that as of Sept. 5, 271 deaths have been connected to the tires, many of which experienced tread separations. In some cases, the Explorers on which they were mounted rolled over after a tire failed.

Ford also has been sued by dozens of accident victims and victims' survivors.

Firestone officials have maintained a design flaw in the Explorer contributed to the accidents, but Ford insisted the tires should carry the full blame.