CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas (Jan. 27) — A Texas state district court jury has awarded more than $29 million to a young woman who was rendered quadriplegic in a rollover accident caused by an aged Firestone ATX tire.
Rose Marie Munoz was riding in a 1992 Mazda Navajo — manufactured by Ford Motor Co. and identical in design to a Ford Explorer — on April 12, 2002, when the ATX tire, which was overlooked in the August 2000 recall and had been installed on the vehicle as a spare, suffered a tread separation.
The jury found Ford 75 percent liable for the accident, Mazda North American Operations 10 percent liable, and Bridgestone/Firestone — which settled before the case went to court — 15 percent liable. The jury found Ford and Mazda liable for not warning Munoz about the danger of aged tires, the first time any jury has made such a finding, according to Roger Braugh, the Corpus Christi attorney representing Munoz.
In a prepared statement, Ford said that driver error caused the accident, and expressed confidence that the verdict would be overturned on appeal. Mazda said it was extremely disappointed in the verdict, asserting that the vehicle was safe and reliable and that the ATX tire involved was not original equipment for it.
A BFS spokeswoman noted that because her company settled long ago, it is not liable for further damages, and also that it wasn´t present in court to rebut the plaintiff´s charges. "It´s not unexpected that a jury would determine we bore a small percentage of the liability, since we weren't there to defend ourselves," she said.