Bridgestone, Ford settle with 2 hurt in wreck, Civil Rights leader’s wrongful death trial over incident starts

posted on:
January 7, 2003

author:
Bob Johnson

Tuskegee – Bridgestone-Firestone and Ford Motor Co. settled a lawsuit Monday with two people injured in a tire blowout and wreck that killed civil rights leader Earl Shinhoster.

The companies did not settle with Shinhoster’s widow, Ruby Shinhoster, and the trial of her claims will continue today with the selection of a jury to hear the wrongful death case.

Attorneys and others involved would not comment about the settlement because Macon County Circuit Judge Howard Bryan placed them under a gag order until after the trial is completed.

Shinhoster, a veteran NAACP official in Atlanta, was killed in the June 11, 2000 accident on an Alabama interstate as he traveled in a speeding motorcade that included the first lady of Liberia.

Joining in the suit were Samimah Aziz, a goddaughter of the Rev. Jesse Jackson, and Ademah Hackshaw of Atlanta, who was driving the Ford Explorer in which Shinhoster and Aziz were passengers. Aziz suffered serious injuries and Hackshaw minor injuries when the Explorer overturned on Interstate 85 near Tuskegee.

Aziz and Hackshaw reached agreement with Ford and Firestone on Monday after settlement meetings that began last week resumed, according to several sources close to the case who spoke on condition on anonymity.

Aziz, who walks with a cane because of the accident, got word of the settlement as attorneys came into the courtroom and congratulated her. She then went outside and hugged family members, friends and her attorneys.

Bryan then sent potential jurors home for the night with instructions to return at 1:30 p.m. today. He said a jury would be selected this afternoon for the trial of the suit over Shinhoster’s death.

As settlement talks were under way in private, Bryan began questioning a mostly black pool of potential jurors to hear the suit filed by the wife of Shinhoster, who was acting executive director of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in the mid-1990s.

A spokeswoman for Ford, Kathleen Vokes, released a statement earlier Monday saying several circumstances contributed to the accident, including excessive speed, an old tire, the fact that Aziz was not wearing a seatbelt and difficulty rescue workers had removing Shinhoster from the vehicle.

“The Explorer provided very good protection for the occupants in this violent crash. The driver, who was properly restrained, received only a knee injury,” Vokes said.

The lawsuit is one of many that have been filed in accidents involving alleged failure of Firestone tires and Ford Explorer rollovers.

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