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Firestone To Release Test Data

October 2, 2000

DETROIT (AP) _ Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. will release testing data about its Firestone ATX tires that had been kept secret as part of a Texas lawsuit, although some of the information will be provided under a protective order.

At a hearing Monday before a district judge in Houston, Firestone agreed to release by Oct. 9 information about test results, quality assurance, adjustment data and correspondence between it and Ford Motor Co. about tire specifications, design, manufacture and testing.

The lawsuit was filed by Peggy Turner Trahan, a woman who was seriously injured in September 1999 when a Firestone ATX on her 1996 Ford Explorer lost its tread and the vehicle crashed. She sued a Firestone dealer, Ford and Bridgestone/Firestone.

Her attorney, Richard Mithoff, said the tire maker had wanted to provide all of the data on tests and claims related to the ATX under a protective order, keeping them from being made public.

Instead, the two sides agreed Monday to make some information public, including test data, quality control documents and correspondence between Ford and Bridgestone/Firestone about the ATX. Bridgestone/Firestone will provide other information under seal, including test protocols and production records.

The agreement opens up for public review the relationship between Ford and Firestone.

Ford also is providing information to Mithoff for the case, some of which is protected from public view.

Mithoff reserves the right to ask that more information be made public if the information has a bearing on public safety.

The two companies have been criticized by safety advocates for using protective orders to keep information in lawsuits away from the public.

The companies have said the information under seal mainly involved trade secrets, and that attorneys for plaintiffs have always been free to argue that information should be released in the interest of public safety.

The 15-inch ATX tire is one of three Firestone tire brands linked to 101 deaths and more than 400 injuries by federal investigators.

Ford was criticized after Firestone recalled 6.5 million tires because the auto maker acknowledged ordering its own recall of the same tires in 16 other countries after receiving reports of problems. The foreign recalls began more than a year before the recall in the United States.

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