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Bridgestone/Firestone executive says complaints didn't reach him

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'We never used the data,' quality control chief reveals

NASHVILLE, Tennessee (CNN) -- Bridgestone/Firestone's quality control chief has revealed that complaints from customers were seen only by the company's sales department.

In a pretrial deposition that ended Saturday, Robert Wyant, vice president of corporate quality, said Bridgestone/Firestone received more than 2,000 complaints about the tires covered in last month's recall, but these were reviewed only by the sales department.

"We never used the data," said Wyant, adding that he never saw a customer complaint.

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Wyant was deposed by lawyers representing the family of Patricio and Nidia Leal, who were killed when their 1996 Ford Explorer slammed into a utility pole on a Texas highway last year. Their survivors blame the accident on the tread separation of a Firestone tire.

The family contend Bridgestone/Firestone could have prevented the accident and are preparing to take their case to trial next month. It would be the first case to go to trial since the recall.

Had the Leals' tire not failed, it would have been among those covered by last month's recall of approximately 6.5 million ATX, ATX II and Wilderness series tires, Wyant acknowledged.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is investigating at least 88 traffic fatalities and 250 injuries from accidents involving Firestone tires.

Family lawyers deposed Wyant in an attempt to prove the company knew about problems with the tires at least a decade before the accident, yet kept the information secret.

Bridgestone/Firestone has said it will not comment on legal proceedings. In court papers, the company has blamed the accident on improper tire usage.

Much of the deposition Saturday covered material not being released to the public. Wyant's deposition ended Saturday afternoon when his attorneys invoked a state rule that requires a person undergo no more than six hours of questioning.

A second deposition with James Gardner, a Firestone tire engineer, began Saturday afternoon at a hotel near the company headquarters.



RELATED STORIES:
Ford tire problems will affect fourth quarter earnings
September 15, 2000
Report: U.S. officials have received complaints about more tires
September 15, 2000
Tennessee investigates reports that dealers selling recalled tires
September 15, 2000
Highway safety head undergoes baptism by Firestone
September 11, 2000
Firestone spreads blame
September 11, 2000
Tire recall may boost highway safety agency
September 8, 2000

RELATED SITES:
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation
Bridgestone/Firestone
Consumers Union


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