The Firestone Tire & Rubber Co. has been hit with another class action lawsuit - this time in its home state of Ohio - alleging negligence and fraud in sales of the 500 steel-belted radial.
In an action filed earlier this week in Cincinnati, Joan Levine Gall said her daughter "was almost killed and was in shock" after a Firestone 500 exploded while the car was on a highway.
The suit seeks refunds, replacements or punitive damages of up to $1,000 for every Ohio consumer who bought the firestone 500, or who received a similar Firestone, the TPC, as original equipment on new cars.
The Akron-based tire maker is already facing class-action suits in New York, California, Michigan and Pennsylvania as well as more than 270 individual civil suits.
In addition, a federal class-action been has filed under the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act in New York, seeking $1.1 billion for more than 147 specific plaintiffs as well as a entire class of Firestone 500 tire owners.
Gene Mesh, attorney for the plain- the various suits "will probably be all tiff's in the newly filed Ohio case said consolidated into one jurisdiction . . . Ohio would be a natural center for litigation."
An official of the New Jersey Attorney General's office said last week that his office is exploring the possibility of having a national association of Attorneys General sponsor a coordinated class action suit. Such a suit was brought in the case of alleged engine switching by General Motors.
Meanwhile, sources at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration say the agency may recall an estimated 13 million Firestone 500's still on the road sometime next week.
Federal officials had hoped to order the recall this week, but some data provided by the company did not arrive at NHTSA until early this week, and it must be evaluated before the recall could be ordered.
In addition, sources said, Firestone is still negotiating with NHTSA in an attempt to limit a recall to certain models of the tire, which have had higher degrees of failure. Financial analysts have said that a full recall could cost Firestone anywhere from $100 to $300 million.
One Firestone argument against a recall has been to emphasis that the government has never specified just what the alleged safety defect in the tire is.
NHTSA conceeds that it has not found a specified defect, but adds that under case law it does not have to prove what is wrong, only that there is something causing problems in large numbers.
In a related action the Canadian government said earlier this week that it had investigated all reports of failures by Firestone 500's in Canada and found that "all the problems were caused by owner abuse, road damage or underinflation," - not a safety de
Ironically, however, if the tire is recalled in the United States, it will also be recalled in Canada because of a Canadian law concerning recall in other countries.