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Ford ordered to pay $29 million in rollover crash

It's the first Ford-Firestone case to go to a verdict since Firestone tire recalls started in 1999

Associated Press

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas -- Ford Motor Co. was ordered to pay $29 million Friday in the case of a 22-year-old woman who was partially paralyzed after the Firestone tire on her Explorer failed and the vehicle rolled over.

Firestone previously paid an undisclosed settlement in the case.

Plaintiff attorneys touted the case as the first Ford-Firestone case to go all the way to a verdict since Firestone tire recalls started in 1999.

"You have a situation where all the parties agreed there was a tire defect, but the question was who's ultimately responsible for the accident," Corpus Christi plaintiff attorney Roger S. Braugh Jr. said.

Attorneys for plaintiff Rose Maria Munoz argued that the vehicle had a problem known as a rear axle "skate" that led to the driver's inability to handle the vehicle after a de-tread. Attorneys also said Ford had a role in designing Firestone tires.

Ford spokeswoman Kathleen Vokes said the case would be appealed.

"Our concern goes out to Ms. Munoz, but this accident was caused by driver error," she said.

Braugh said the case also brought attention to the issue of tire aging and what automobile manufacturers needed to let consumers know.

"How do you age your tire? When is a tire old?" he said. He said the manufacturers have been aware of the problem since the late 1980s, but failed to provide information.

The vehicle in question was using an original spare tire sold with the vehicle that was more than 10 years old.

The accident occurred in 2002 near Poteet, Texas. Munoz was one of four occupants of an Explorer that had been sold as a 1999 Mazda Navajo. The left rear Firestone tire on the Navajo de-treaded, and the vehicle rolled several times. Munoz, who was ejected from the vehicle, was the only one seriously injured.

The three-week trial was before a jury of seven women and five men.
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