Ford, Michelin Settle Explorer Rollover Suit
By Lawrence Viele
Edinburg, Texas, June 5 (Bloomberg) -- Ford Motor Co. and Michelin & Cie. settled for an undisclosed amount a lawsuit by relatives of a Mexican couple killed last year when a tire on an Explorer sport-utility vehicle failed and the vehicle flipped.
Raul Aguirre Pedraza, 48, and his wife Ana Maria Martinez de Aguirre, 45, died in January 2000 when their 1995 Explorer flipped on a highway near Monterrey, Mexico, after a tire-tread separation. The parties settled the suit late yesterday following jury selection in state court in Edinburg, Texas.
The world's No. 2 automaker has settled more than 200 lawsuits over Explorer rollover wrecks. The Explorer has been a target of hundreds of claims after U.S. safety officials linked Firestone tires made for Explorers to 271 deaths. No jury has found Ford liable for claims that the Explorer's design is defective and leads to the wrecks.
``The family is very pleased to get the case resolved,'' said Doug Allison, an attorney for the plaintiffs.
The family sued in Hidalgo County District Court in September 2000, accusing Michelin and Ford of negligence in product design. Their suit sought unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.
Ford shares fell 4 cents to $16.88 in afternoon trading, while Michelin fell 50 cents to 41 euros in Paris. Dearborn, Michigan-based Ford is the world's second-largest automaker after General Motors Corp. Clermont Ferrand, France-based Michelin, which is Europe's largest tire company, makes tires under the Michelin, B.F. Goodrich, Uniroyal and Kleber brands.
In January 2001, Ford paid one woman, a quadriplegic, at least $30 million to settle her suit the day before jury selection was to begin in Corpus Christi, Texas. In July, the automaker agreed to pay $6 million to settle a suit by the family of a woman who suffered brain damage in a rollover accident.
In the Aguirre family's suit, Ford and Michelin disputed the claims that their products were defective and contributed to the accident. Ford maintained that speeding was a factor in the wreck and the couple was not wearing seatbelts.
The family's suit is the first Explorer case that's gone to jury selection in which the plaintiffs were not U.S. citizens, said Tab Turner, another Aguirre attorney.