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Ford settles family's suit involving Explorer rollover

Wednesday, September 19, 2001

BROWNSVILLE, Texas -- Just after jurors were selected for a trial, Ford Motor Co. said Tuesday it reached a settlement in a lawsuit involving a rollover accident of a Ford Explorer with Firestone tires.

Specifics of the agreement were not released.

Margarita Gonzalez, 59, died last year when the Explorer she was in crashed near Kerrville after a tread separated on a rear tire. Her son, Alfredo, who was driving the vehicle at high speed, was left brain damaged.

Her husband, five children and mother were seeking unspecified damages for wrongful death, malice and gross negligence.

The family had already settled with Bridgestone/Firestone.

"Our condolences go out to the Gonzalez family. We respect the right of privacy to the family and do not discuss details of any settlement," said Ford spokeswoman Kathleen Vokes.

Jury already selected

Family spokesman Skip Rutherford said that as a result of the settlement, "the healing for the Gonzalez family can begin."

A 12-member jury was selected Tuesday morning, and the trial was scheduled to begin today.

Ford and Bridgestone/Firestone have settled hundreds of claims over accidents involving Explorers with Firestone tires, and hundreds more are pending.

The first trial in a rollover lawsuit made it to the jury deliberations stage before it ended abruptly last month in a courtroom in McAllen. In a settlement, Bridgestone/Firestone agreed to pay $7.5 million to Marisa Rodriguez, who was left paralyzed and brain-damaged in a crash. Ford had already settled with the Rodriguez family before that trial.

Another lawsuit involving a Firestone-Ford crash had been set for Sept. 10 in Laredo, but was postponed until November.

Firestone and Ford have blamed each other for accidents that federal safety officials have linked to more than 200 deaths and 700 injuries. Bridgestone/Firestone agreed in August 2000 to recall 6.5 million tires, and Ford has said it will replace an additional 13 million Firestones.


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