Bridgestone/Firestone to pay $41.5 million

Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. said yesterday it will pay $41.5 million to settle lawsuits by states over defective ATX, ATX II and Wildreness AT tires recalled by the company last year.

Each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands will get $500,000, according to the Associated Press. Nashville-based Bridgestone/Firestone will spend $5 million on a consumer education campaign and $10 million to reimburse attorneys’ fees for the states, the report said.

Bridgestone/Firestone announced a recall of 6.5 million tires, several which were original equipment of Ford light-trucks, in August 2000, after receiving reports that some tires suddenly failed. Since then, federal investigators have documented 271 deaths from thousands of accidents involving the tires, many involving rollovers of Ford Explorer SUVs.

Attorneys general have been investigating whether Bridgestone/Firestone and Ford were aware of problems with the tires long before the recall was announced. The battle resulted in Bridgestone/Firestone ending its century-long relationship with Ford in May.

Federal investigators found the design of the Wilderness AT and the ATX produced before May 1998 could cause higher stress at the edge of the steel belt and lead to a separation. Bridgestone/Firestone added a thicker strip of rubber between the two steel belts on the sides of the tire and changed the tire’s material composition in the spring of 1998.

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