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Ford, Firestone Knew of 35 Deaths, 130 Injuries

12 September 2000 Ford, Firestone Knew of 35 Deaths, 130 Injuries Before NHTSA Launched Tire Probe
    ARLINGTON, Va., Sept. 10 The following release was issued
today by

    Ford and Firestone knew of at least 35 deaths and 130 injuries associated
with Firestone tire failures and rollovers before NHTSA launched its
investigation of Firestone tire failures earlier this year, according to
Little Rock, Arkansas safety attorney Tab Turner.  Turner is's
"Attorney of Record" for tires. analyzed information from 185 law suits and claims filed
against Ford or Firestone between 1991, when the Ford Explorer and Firestone
ATX tire combination were first introduced, and May 2000 when NHTSA opened its
defect investigation.  "'s analysis revealed that Ford and
Firestone knew of at least 35 deaths and 130 injuries associated with
Firestone tire failures, and in most cases, Ford Explorer rollovers, before
NHTSA even opened its investigation this Spring," Turner said.  "This is
information that doesn't need to be pried out of anybody's hand," Turner said,
referring to Ford CEO Jacques Nasser's remark last week before a congressional
committee when he claimed that Ford didn't know there was a problem until it
pried the information out of Firestone's hands.  "This data supports the
proposition that the only prying that needs to be done is prying the truth out
of both of these companies," Turner said.
    "These numbers reveal what Ford and Firestone knew and when they knew it,
year-by-year, since the lethal combination of Ford's SUV and Firestone's tires
were first sold," Turner said.  "The deaths and injuries chronicled in these
lawsuits are mute testimony to the tragedy that has gone unchecked because of
Ford's and Firestone's silence."
    Federal law requires manufacturers to notify NHTSA as soon as they become
aware of safety related problems.
    Ford introduced the Explorer in 1990, equipped with ATX radial tires that
had been developed by Firestone to Ford's specifications.  The first lawsuit
alleging tire failure was filed in 1991.  The toll of deaths and injuries
mounted slowly until 1997 when they accelerated.
    By the end of 1997, lawsuits had been filed alleging a total of 13 deaths
and 22 injuries.  During 1998 the number escalated to at least 22 deaths and
69 injuries.  Deaths, injuries and attendant lawsuits accelerated in 1999.  By
the end of that year, the total of deaths and injuries alleged in lawsuits had
reached at least 35 deaths and 122 injuries.  Lawsuits and claims during the
early months of 2000 added another eight injuries to the toll.
    Information from 35 of the cases did not specify whether the cases
involved deaths or injuries.  It is not likely that a safety attorney would
bring suit against a tire or vehicle manufacturer unless the losses included
death or other serious injury, Turner noted.