INDIO, CA — An Indio, Calif., hearing to determine if a lawsuit over Bridgestone/Firestone’s Steeltex tire brand should gain class-action status has been postponed until Mar. 17. The hearing was originally scheduled for Feb. 25.
California Superior Court Judge Christopher Sheldon delayed the decision, saying he wanted a shorter version of the motion filed by Bridgestone Americas Holding (BAH) opposing class-action certification.
Attorney Joseph Lisoni of Pasadena, Calif., filed the lawsuit last year on behalf of RV owner Robert Littell of Cathedral City, Calif. Lisoni said Littell owned five defective Steeltex tires. Lisoni further charged that the Nashville-based tiremaker used substandard materials to make the tire and then concealed the defects, resulting in more than a dozen deaths and 100 injuries. The lawsuit seeks at least $1 billion in reimbursement to motorists and a recall of Steeltex R4S, R4SII and A/T tires.
After an 18-month investigation, NHTSA concluded the tires performed better than those of some competitors and rejected Lisoni’s request to reopen the investigation last year.
Lisoni countered that his firm has received complaints from thousands of people and said that 175 ambulance services throughout the nation have replaced Steeltex tires with competing brands after tread separations and accidents.
However, Dan MacDonald, spokesman for BAH, said the complaints don’t merit class-action status. “They are too varied,” he told Tire Review magazine. “For this kind of litigation, they need to be almost identical, and they’re not.” MacDonald concluded that BAH has a “compelling case that the complaints are not appropriate for class-action status.”
In related news, late yesterday afternoon Bridgestone/Firestone North American Tire announced a voluntary safety campaign in the U.S. to replace approximately 297,000 Steeltex Radial A/T tires in size LT265/75R16 LR D (Load Range D) on 2000-2002 and some early 2003 model year Ford Excursions.
The company said preliminary data suggests that there could be an issue concerning the performance of these tires. The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that the new recall was initiated following three fatal crashes that claimed five lives.
The tires were manufactured in Joliette, Quebec, from March 1999 through December 2002.
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