A WSJ.COM News Roundup
WASHINGTON -- Twenty-nine more deaths have been reported in the
government's investigation into the safety of Firestone tires, including
four fatalities that occurred in accidents since the tire maker's August
The National Highway Traffic Safety
Administration has reports of 148 deaths
involving tread separations, blowouts and other
problems involving Firestone tires. That is up
from 119 deaths reported as of Oct. 17, the
last time NHTSA updated the numbers.
A NHTSA spokesman said Wednesday there
have been more than 4,300 complaints about
the tires, including more than 525 injuries.
Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. recalled 6.5 million
ATX, ATX II and Wilderness AT tires on Aug. 9
as reports of accidents involving tire failures
mounted. The latest summary includes the first
reports of deaths since the recall -- three
reported to NHTSA by the company and one
collected by the agency independently.
Not all the deaths that have been reported involve the recalled tires.
Five of the latest fatalities reportedly involve tires included in a
consumer advisory issued by the agency, but not under recall by the
NHTSA investigators issued the advisory Sept. 1, warning consumers
that 1.4 million Firestone tires not under recall had a high failure rate
and could pose a safety problem. Bridgestone/Firestone has since
agreed to also replace those tires at no cost for customers who ask,
but they are not included in the safety-recall campaign.
Bridgestone/Firestone officials weren't available for comment.
Besides the deaths being investigated by U.S. authorities, the tires have
also been linked to at least seven deaths in the Middle East and 46 in
Most of the tires under recall were used as original equipment on the
Ford Explorer, and many of the deaths occurred when the tires failed
and an Explorer rolled over.
Ford, Bridgestone/Firestone and NHTSA are investigating what can
cause the tread to peel off the tire, sometimes as the vehicle is traveling
at highway speeds, but have yet to announce their conclusions.
NHTSA is hoping to finish its probe in the next three months. It has the
power to order an expanded recall if it determines other tires are not
On Tuesday, Bridgestone said it would set aside $450 million this year
to cover damage claims against its U.S. Firestone unit and flatly rejected
a media report that lawsuits over allegedly faulty tires could bankrupt
the U.S. subsidiary.
Meanwhile, Firestone and Ford Motor Co. said they reached an
undisclosed settlement with the family of a Tennessee woman killed last
July in a sport utility vehicle accident.
Trina Thurman Adams was killed when the 1994 Ford Explorer her
husband was driving spun out of control, rolled over, and ejected her
from the vehicle. The Ford had Firestone tires. The $60-million wrongful
death case -- the second lawsuit against the companies -- was
scheduled for trial this week in Yazoo County, Miss.
The first lawsuit was in Texas where Ryan Anthony Guillen, 21 years
old, and his sister, Kimberly Guillen, 18, sued the tire manufacturer last
November after their mother and stepfather were killed in an accident.
About 160 cases from around the U.S., many of them involving
allegations of injury or death, have been consolidated in federal court in
Indianapolis. Many allege that the tire recall wasn't broad enough to
include all defective models.
Bridgestone's president, Yoichiro Kaizaki, firmly denied a newspaper
report that legal claims against Nashville-based Bridgestone/Firestone
Inc. may reach $50 billion and force the U.S. company to fold its
Bridgestone/Firestone "is not in a state of insolvency" and has no plans
to file for bankruptcy, Mr. Kaizaki said. "We have not even considered
such a thing," he said at a news conference in Tokyo.
Mr. Kaizaki said Bridgestone would continue to support Firestone to
help it recover from the Aug. 9 recall, but refused to elaborate on how
Bridgestone calculated its $450 million estimate for legal damages,
saying only that "our accountants and lawyers assure us this will be
enough to cover damage awards."
The estimate would bring total costs related to the recall for
Bridgestone to $900 million for this year, Mr. Kaizaki said. Bridgestone
had already announced that replacing recalled tires with new ones would
cost $450 million. Firestone has reserves to easily cover the costs, Mr.
In addition to the direct costs, Firestone has suffered from bad publicity
surrounding the recall. Last month, Bridgestone said sales of Firestone
replacement tires for cars and light trucks fell about 40% in the U.S. in
September and October from a year earlier.