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Judge:Firestone Can’t Destroy Tires

November 17, 2000

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) _ A federal judge Friday ordered Bridgestone/Firestone to stop destroying its recalled tires until some can be preserved for use as evidence in lawsuits against the company.

U.S. District Judge Sarah Evans Barker issued the ruling at the end of the first organizational hearing in Indianapolis since the cases were consolidated here last month. More than 50 lawyers representing the plaintiffs and the companies involved crowded the courtroom.

About 160 cases from around the country involving allegations of injury or death have been consolidated in federal court in Indiana.

Many of the lawsuits allege that Bridgestone/Firestone’s Aug. 9 recall of 6.5 million ATX, ATX II and Wilderness AT tires _ most of them used on the Ford Explorer _ was not broad enough to include all defective models.

Hugh Whiting, a lawyer for Firestone, told the judge that Firestone is destroying tires as they are recalled to make sure they are not accidentally put back on the market. Whiting said the tires that are being destroyed were not directly linked to any specific injury cases.

But Victor Diaz, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said at least a representative sample of the tires should be preserved for evidence.

The judge said the two sides should work out a compromise. ``So hold up destruction of the tires, until you at least confer,″ she told Whiting.

Whiting said he would relay that to Firestone, but he wasn’t sure how quickly the company could obey or how long it would take to reach a compromise.

``I suggest you have the conversation today,″ Barker said.

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