Lawsuit could cost Firestone nearly $3 billion

A California lawyer filed a lawsuit on Tuesday demanding Bridgestone Corp.'s U.S. unit recall 27.5 million Steeltex tires that allegedly suffer from tread separation similar to that which led to a massive recall of its tires two years ago. The suit seeks class action status and could cost Bridgestone/Firestone Inc., the U.S. unit of Japan's Bridgestone, as much as $2.75 billion to recall roughly 27.5 million Steeltex R4S, R4SII and A/T tires, attorney Joseph Lisoni told reporters at a news conference here. The suit was filed in California Superior Court in Riverside County, east of Los Angeles. Bridgestone/Firestone officials were not immediately available to comment. The suit contends the tires contain a lamination defect that can cause the tread to separate from the rest of the tire, "in a matter of seconds, leading to the tire's total destruction," the attorney's said in a statement. "Without question, millions of people are currently at risk who are riding the roads on Steeltex tires," Lisoni said. Lisoni said the tires are designed for trucks, and many are fitted onto municipal vehicles such as school buses, ambulances and fire engines. Lisoni said his law firm, Lisoni & Lisoni, in Pasadena has approached Firestone about recalling the tires, but the company has refused to meet with him. The firm recently handled another lawsuit against Firestone relating to a Steeltex tire blowout and resulting in multiple deaths and injuries. That suit was settled, Lisoni said. This new suit was filed on behalf of Roger Littell of Riverside, California, who has seen four Steeltex tires on his 1999 motorhome disintegrate, according to the lawyers. Littell is a racing car enthusiast and was involved in road testing Firestone tires between 1955 and 1974, the lawyers said. Two years ago, Firestone recalled 6.5 million tires, most of them installed on Ford Motor Co. Explorer SUVs, after officials linked the tires to a series of fatal accidents. The recall ended a 94-year relationship between Firestone and Ford, and placed the future of the Firestone brand in doubt.

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