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Special Event

Lawyers Call for Expanded Firestone Recall

Aired August 24, 2000 - 9:04 a.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Now the latest on Firestone. Live to a press conference right now in Fort Myers, Florida. This woman here in Mary Viles (ph). She is an attorney for the plaintiffs in this case. She has been pleading for warnings to go out to all owners of 15- and 16-inch Wilderness tires listen.

We'll listen for more now live in Florida.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Firestone and Ford were welcome to come today and they could add to this debate. But they are not here. The American public and the Florida litigation seeks an answer to the question burning in this case. Since when did crippling injuries or death to an American citizen become an acceptable cost to corporate prosperity?

At this time, I would like to turn the table over to Max Nonnamaker. Thank you.

MAX NONNAMAKER, TIRE EXPERT: Good morning. My name is Max Nonnamaker. I am president of Nonnamaker and Associates, an independent consulting firm specializing in tires and wheels. And our office is located in Akron, Ohio. I appreciate this opportunity to enlighten you with regards to what our findings have been regarding this very, very serious problem.

KATE SANDERS, PLAINTIFF: Good morning. My name the Kate Sanders. And I guess I'm the person who started all of this. I had heard all the publicity when I was on vacation. When I came back, I took my Ford Explorer into the local dealer expecting them to give me a new set of tires, and they told me it was not a Ford problem, it was a Firestone problem. I went to Firestone, they offered me an identical set of tires, and that was all they would do.

So, at that point, I got mad. First, I went out and replaced the tires out of my own pocket, and then I sought legal advice because I felt, as a consumer, that other consumers ought to know about this problem. This is a life safety issue. And I felt that I was being stonewalled and it was appropriate for me to step forward and take action. Thank you.

NONNAMAKER: I would like to make a comment with regards to my position and the evaluation and that is that there's a design defect that has been built into these tires. And we will go into detail during the question and answer period. But basically, that's what my findings have indicated. And it's something that I have known about for a long period of time.

And it's, in part, a repeat of what occurred in the earlier Firestone 500. There is certain similarities with the key factor being a management and management's knowledge of this, even at the very highest levels, and the steps that they have gone through that leads me to the opinions that I am expressing this morning.

SHAWNA FREUCHT, PLAINTIFF: Hi, I am Shawna Freucht. That is my green Ford Explorer outside. I am here to just say how upset I am of the deception that has been caused by Firestone. Nadine Cocas (ph) would have been here with me today but she was told yesterday she will never look the same, and to take a 40-year-old woman's face and destroy it because of lack of caring, more than anything else, is devastating. She will be going through another surgery in probably a year because you have to heal first.

To me, this is just traumatic. Two weeks before, my kids were in the car, and they would be dead if they had been in the car that day.

We were doing 70 miles an hour, right-hand lane, doing nothing wrong, but two women going to get my beautiful girlfriend's picture taken for her 40th birthday and go shopping. And we were 15 minutes away from our destination when I thought we had a flat tire, the tire -- the car started spinning, rolling, and it's just horrible. Everything that we have been through is horrible.

I realize I don't look like she does. But after having eight shots in my spine the day before yesterday, I sure don't feel great. And I don't want to be here because I don't want my kids to go through seeing mommy on TV.

But, the best revenge is success. I want to succeed in not seeing any more people hurt. And I am angry that my children's lives were put in that position, and I'm watching what my best friend is going through now, not to mention the pain that I feel every single day. But, as a single mother, I can't stop. So I have no choice.

So hopefully, this will bring about and stop a lot more deaths. And to make somebody come about and say the truth for a change, which is something we're not hearing.

So thank you very much.

MARCUS VILES, PLAINTIFF ATTORNEY: Good morning. My name is Marcus Viles, and along with Mary Pat (ph), we're representing a class of consumers who are very concerned about the Firestone recall.

It is our position in this case that the recall by Firestone is inadequate and incomplete and misleading. We -- it is our position that all tires in the Wilderness AT, ATXII should be recalled, whether they are 14-, 15-, 16- or 17-inch tires. It's further our position that Firestone and Ford have an absolute duty to immediately convey to consumers that these tires are unsafe. We believe that the wording of the recall, which starts out with the language that these tires are among the safest in the world is misleading, when in fact these tires are not the safest in the world.

And we believe that a proper notice, proper warnings to consumers will prevent further deaths.

We have for your inspection documents which confirm and will prove to you from NHTSA and from Ford and from Firestone that the recall must be expanded to 14-17 inch tires, and that the recall that's presently in place is only going to lead to more deaths. Thank you.

HEMMER: Let the civil fight begin. Live from Fort Myers, Florida, a number of people coming up to the microphone there, not just attorneys, but also those who say their lives have been impacted by what they consider to be unsafe product produced by Firestone and riding on their cars in different parts of country.

One of the men there, a man by the name of Max Nonnamaker, you heard him, he is an independent consultant and tire expert. It is his belief that there is a dangerous propensity to experience sudden and complete tread separation. He has testified before and been quoted previously on this matter.

On the part of the company, though, Firestone is saying that a number of the people who have come forward, including employees, were, quote, "disgruntled." They say that they ended their employment with the company back during a bitter strike in 1996; that's the position of the company.

Again, we will continue to track this. Right now, firmly, in the hands of the court on the civil side. We will watch the impact for consumers from here on out as well.

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