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Testimony in Cooper Tires Case

August 24, 2000

CHICAGO (AP) _ Workers for Ohio-based Cooper Tires say shoddy quality control may have caused tire problems similar to those cited in the recent Bridgestone/Firestone recall.

The Chicago Sun-Times reported Thursday that workers from the Cooper Tire plant in Tupelo, Miss., testified earlier this year that they used sharp tools to poke holes in tires to remove bubbles. They also said that solvents were used to make old rubber easier to mold into shape.

Experts said both practices can weaken tires. Harry Baumgardner, a former Firestone engineer and product line manager, testified that the practices could lead to serious problems, including tire failure.

The Sun-Times cited workers’ testimony from more than 50 lawsuits filed against Findlay, Ohio-based Cooper Tires. The lawsuits contained claims that the company’s tires failed when the treads separated from the tire.

Arkansas attorney Paul Byrd said tread failure caused his client’s Volvo to cross the center line and hit an oncoming car in May 1998. The drivers of both cars and two passengers were killed.

Coopers spokeswoman Pat Brown said her company works hard to make quality tires and that tire failures can usually be traced to drivers under-inflating the tires and not taking care of them.

``We need to concentrate on customer education,″ she said.

Earlier this month, Nashville-based Bridgestone/Firestone recalled 6.5 million tires.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is investigating 62 deaths and more than 100 injuries possibly linked to the Bridgestone/Firestone tires. In many cases, the tread separated from the tire, causing a blowout and a rollover accident.

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