Judge strikes down class-action lawsuit against Bridgestone/Firestone

March 17, 2004

A class-action lawsuit filed against Bridgestone/Firestone North American Tire LLC failed to receive national certification from a California state court judge today.

The 20-month-old suit was filed on behalf of consumers who alleged that tens of millions of Firestone Steeltex R4S, R4SII and AT tires have a design defect which has caused "numerous deaths and injuries nationwide."

Superior Court Judge Christopher Sheldon ruled there was no evidence to support class-action certification.

In an official statement, Bridgestone/Firestone said there is no basis for action with all types of Steeltex tires.

"Under California law, the claims of the litigant class should be uniform," said the company. "In this case, the claims are quite varied, with many different types of Steeltex tires, different types of vehicles and different circumstances of use. Further, the laws of the 50 states, which apply to the various class members here, are considerably different from one another. In all, the claims of the various class members simply are not uniform, and any class action would be completely unmanageable.

"Furthermore, the huge population of Firestone Steeltex tires are performing well on the road. NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) has twice reviewed these tires and clearly stated it found no evidence of defect. In fact, the agency found that in many instances, Steeltex tires are performing better than peer tires in the same difficult duty applications."

Bridgestone/Firestone recently recalled 297,000 Steeltex Radial AT tires in the United States as part of a voluntary safety campaign. The tires came as original equipment on Ford Excursion SUVs.

"This safety campaign is proof of our commitment to the early warning system and our willingness to address issues before they become problems," said the company.

According to the Associated Press, Lisoni & Lisoni, the law firm representing the plaintiffs, will appeal the decision and also seek class-action certification in other states. Without certification, "claims have to be handled state by state."

Bridgestone Corp., Bridgestone/Firestone's parent company, was originally a co-defendant, but plaintiffs' attorneys agreed to grant the Japanese company a "temporary stay" from the litigation pending completion of litigation against Bridgestone/Firestone.