SEATTLE -- Attorney General Christine Gregoire today announced a national $51.5 million settlement with Bridgestone/Firestone Inc., the manufacturer of tires linked to 271 deaths and 700 injuries nationwide.
A 14-month investigation conducted by attorneys general from throughout the country centered on whether the tire giant withheld vital safety information from consumers, misrepresented the tires’ expected life and failed to live up to the terms of various recalls.
During the investigation, attorneys general uncovered evidence that Bridgestone/Firestone was aware of problems with the tires and failed to notify federal regulators. For instance, the firm replaced Firestone tires on Ford vehicles in Saudi Arabia as early as 1997 because of safety concerns but failed to notify U.S. consumers.
"We concluded that Bridgestone/Firestone failed to tell the truth about tire safety to consumers," Gregoire said.
"The last thing people should have to worry about when they get behind the wheel is whether their tires will survive the trip. This settlement, combined with others involving private parties and federal regulators, will help ensure that the safety of drivers and their families is the paramount concern at Bridgestone/Firestone," she said.
Part of Washington’s $583,000 share of the settlement will be used to promote tire safety in the state, Gregoire said. That money is in addition to the more than $6.2 million already spent to replace suspect Firestone tires owned by Washington consumers.
Nationally, Bridgestone/Firestone has paid more than $450 million in reimbursement and replacement costs, including tires installed as original equipment on some Ford vehicles.
In addition to the $583,000 paid to Washington, the company will spend $5 million to fund a national advertising campaign managed by attorneys general to promote tire safety.
The national and state campaigns will stress the importance of regularly checking tire wear and inflation pressure, regularly rotating tires to ensure even wear, and the relationship of safety to load, speed and tire pressure.
Although no Washington residents have been killed or injured as a result of the Firestone tire failures, there have been 26 reports of tire failures in the state.
Most of the tire–related accidents that have led to deaths and injuries have occurred in warm states, where road and tire heat have been identified as contributing factors.
This settlement does not resolve concerns raised about alleged rollover problems involving Ford Motor Co.’s popular Explorer sports utility vehicles, which were factory equipped with the suspect Firestone tires.
Further information relating to recalls of certain Bridgestone/Firestone tires can be obtained at the following websites:
Audio message from Attorney General Christine Gregoire: