Family sues Ford, Firestone after Explorer rollover kills passenger

Michelle Massey, East Texas Bureau Dec. 3, 2008, 9:51am

TEXARKANA, Ark. � Eight years after the voluntary recall of Bridgestone/Firestone tires, another lawsuit has been filed by the family of the victim of a fatal Ford Explorer rollover allegedly caused by the tires.

Traveling down the interstate in Arkansas on Nov. 20, 2005, Ana Herrera lost control of her 1998 Ford Explorer. She veered off the road and tried to return to the road but the vehicle rolled several times, finally landing in a ditch. Ricardo Garcia, a passenger in the Explorer, was fatally injured.

Pablo Garcia and Teodora Ruana, individually and next kin of Ricardo Garcia, deceased, filed the lawsuit against Ana Herrera, Ford Motor Company and Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. Nov. 20 in the Miller County Circuit Court of Arkansas.

Although the complaint states the accident was caused by the negligent act of defendant Ana Herrera, it also argues that she "could have regained control of the SUV without anyone getting injured" if the Ford Explorer was properly designed.

The court records argue that the 1998 Ford Explorer has a "propensity to rollover rather than slide out in an emergency situation," due to the SUV's narrow track width and high center of gravity.

The plaintiffs believe that defendant Ford Motor Company knew of the Explorer's dangers but failed to warn, correct, or take affirmative action to prevent injuries. The complaint states the Explorer has other design defects including "problems with control, stability, roof crush, and occupant restraints." They argue that Ford continued to produce the Explorer "with the same rollover prone frame and body style" because it was more cost effective than to make changes.

To offset the vehicles' risk of rolling over, Ford changed the recommended air from its tires. Ford also ordered Firestone to decrease the weight of the tires.

The plaintiffs further believe the defendant Bridgestone/Firestone is responsible for the accident because it provided the tires on the Ford Explorer and agreed to changes to its tires. According to the complaint, the new designed tire was lighter and less durable, making it vulnerable to tread separations.

In August 2000, Bridgestone/Firestone voluntary recalled 6.5 million tires. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration enacted the Transportation Recall Enhancement, Accountability, and Documentation Act (TREAD) in November 2000 in response to the necessary recall of tires.

In May 2001, Ford recalled 13 million Firestone tires that remained on its vehicles.

The complaint does not state which tires remained on the 1998 Ford Explorer.

The plaintiffs are seeking survival damages for the loss of support, comfort, society, counsel, and services, destruction of the parent-child relationship including the right to love, affection, solace, comfort, companionship, society, emotional support, and happiness.

The family is also seeking damages for mental depression and anguish, grief and sorrow.

The plaintiffs are asking the Court to impose punitive damages against the defendants because of gross negligence.

Texarkana attorney Thomas H. Jones and the Mexia law firm of Reed and Reed LLP are representing the plaintiffs in their allegations.
Miller County Circuit Court Judge Kirk Johnson is assigned to the litigation.

The defendants have not responded to the allegations.

Case No CV-2008-344-3

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