Lawyers say lies told about tire death

posted on:
January 16, 2003

author:
Alvin Benn

A lawyer for a woman severely injured in a traffic accident that claimed the life of a civil rights leader two years ago said Wednesday that “myths” are being spread to convince the public that a tire on the vehicle was “bald and taken from a dump.”

William Gill said the tire that blew on June 11, 2000, and led to a wreck that killed Earl Shinhoster was not old, but did have manufacturing defects.

“They are implying that the tire was bald, and nothing could be farther from the truth,” said Gill, who represented Samimah Aziz. Aziz suffered leg injuries when the Ford sport utility vehicle she was riding in blew a tire, left Interstate 85 and slammed into a tree.

Plaintiffs in the case settled lawsuits filed against Bridgestone-Firestone and Ford last week in Macon County Circuit Court.

Gill said those who agreed to a settlement have “implied” since a decision was announced that the blown tire had been defective.

“They want to eliminate the blame factor, and that’s inappropriate,” Gill said. “We’re responding to what the truth is.”

Dan MacDonald, a spokesman for Bridgestone-Firestone, said no one from his side suggested the tread on the tire was worn out, but did indicate that it may have suffered damage and was removed from the vehicle it was on because of concerns.

“That tire was properly taken off the roadway and then improperly put back into service,” MacDonald said in response to Gill’s claims. “It was really sort of a ticking time bomb that would later come apart because of prior impact damage.”

Lawyers for all sides acknowledged that the tire in question had been removed from a vehicle seven years earlier. The tire, shown by Gill at a news conference Wednesday morning, appeared brand new with very little wear on the tread.

“We want everyone to see that this was a new tire,” Gill said, adding there were several “manufacturing defects” in construction of the tire. “For one thing, the steel belts were not put together properly.”

Gill’s law firm is led by Julian McPhillips, who filed the initial suit in the case. Other law firms also were involved in the litigation.

The tire that separated was a Seiberling and was not part of a huge recall by Bridgestone-Firestone a few years ago when safety concerns arose over Wilderness tires.

“If this tread had stayed on this tire like it was supposed to, this accident never would have happened,” said Gill, who added Aziz was not wearing a seatbelt because she was “working” on a cell phone.

A lawyer for the Shinhoster estate said the settlement was a “record” in Alabama wrongful death cases, but he did not indicate how much money was involved.

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