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Court: Firestone Papers Stay Sealed

August 29, 2001

ATLANTA (AP) _ A federal appeals court has overruled a judge’s decision to unseal documents in a wrongful death lawsuit against Bridgestone/Firestone Inc.

A three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals returned the case on Tuesday to U.S. District Judge Anthony Alaimo. Alaimo must determine whether the sealed documents contain trade secrets as Firestone claimed, and if so, whether their disclosure serves the public interest.

The Washington Post Co., CBS Broadcasting, the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune Co. asked Alaimo last year to release the documents, which were part of a $21 million lawsuit filed by Michael and Kim Van Etten of Jupiter, Fla., after the death of their son Daniel.

The 19-year-old was driving a 1993 Ford Explorer when the tread separated from its Firestone tire and the Explorer rolled over. The lawsuit was settled out of court in August 1999, and terms of the agreement were sealed along with evidence.

Federal officials have linked more than 200 deaths to accidents involving Firestone tires on Explorers. Firestone recalled 6.5 million tires last summer.

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