A New York law firm yesterday filed a $1.1 billion class action suit against the Firestone Tire & Rubber Co., charging that the company knowingly put defective tires on the highway.
Representing 146 named individuals "and all others similarly situated," the law firm of Kass, Goodking, Wechsler & Gerstein filed the action under the provisions of the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, alleging Firestone violated its own warranty on the 500 steel belted radial tire.
Meanwhile, a moving van loaded with the last portion of 30 million documents Firestone was ordered to turn over to the government by a federal court arrived at a Washington warehouse yesterday afternoon, just hours under the mandated deadline.
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration officials say the documents represent every consumer complaint ever made against Firestone as well as considerable marketing and sales information the company had refused to hand over willingly.
NHTSA sources say the tire maker still has to deliver further information, not covered by the court order, to the government.That material has been promised by Monday, the sources said.
NHTSA may order a recall of Firestone 500's as early as late next week.
The New York suit contends that Firestone 500's and Firestone TPC's a similar tire manufactured for General Motors as original equipment on new cars, "are not of merchantable quality and are not fit for the use intended."
"The plaintiffs and the Class have suffered, or will suffer blowouts, tread separation and chunking, steel belt separation, or shifting, bead distortion, sidewall blisters and cracks, and out of round conditions," the suit alleges.
The suit claims that Firestone used "improper materials which are inferior, unsafe and unsuitable and which are technically and chemically defective," in the construction of the 500's and TPC's. It also alleges that Firestone "warranted that the tires were of merchantable quality and were fit for the purpose intended."
AttorneyStuart Wechsler of the law firm filing the action said, "Firestone breached their warranty, and a lot of unsuspecting people were riding on dangerous tires."
Wechsler said, "One man had 19 separate tire replacements, and several of our other people had problems with more than one tire. One man, who was particularly angry, was riding with four Firestones on a Pinto."
He said that even if the government, or Firestone itself, recalls the tires, the suit will still go on, explaining that the recall would be limited to tires still on the road, while the suit covers anyone who rode on the tires - even if they have returned the tires already.
Wechsler said many of the clients for the suit were referred to his firm by the Center for Auto Safety, a Washington-based consumer group active on the Firestone matter.