Tuskegee, Ala. – A settlement has been reached with Ford Motor and Bridgestone-Firestone tires over a blowout and wreck that killed civil rights leader Earl Shinhoster and injured two others, the judge in the case said Wednesday.
Circuit Judge Howard Bryan said terms of the settlement were confidential.
The settlement closes the case brought against the companies by Shinhoster’s wife, Ruby Shinhoster, and Samimah Aziz and Ademah Hackshaw.
Shinhoster, a veteran NAACP official in Atlanta, was a passenger along with Aziz in a Ford Explorer being driven by Hackshaw when a tire blew out and the Explorer wrecked June 11, 2000, on Interstate 85 near Tuskegee.
Aziz, a goddaughter of the Rev. Jesse Jackson, suffered serious injuries and Hackshaw minor injuries in the accident that occurred as they rode in a speeding motorcade with the first lady of Liberia and a state patrol escort.
The lawsuit differed from thousands of similar complaints pending across the United States in that it involves a Seiberling II tire instead of the Firestone Wilderness AT tires that were a target of a massive recall.
Federal regulators have linked thousands of injuries and hundreds of deaths to Wilderness tires and rollover accidents, many of them involving Explorers. Ford and Firestone have reached out-of-court settlements in many cases, including all that have so far gone to trial.
A settlement of all claims by Aziz and Hackshaw was reached Monday, but not officially announced until Wednesday when the Shinhoster settlement was disclosed.
Word on the settlement came shortly before a jury was to be picked for trial of the lawsuit.
“I’m relieved after what I’ve been going through the last two years, but they still haven’t admitted they did anything wrong,” Ruby Shinhoster said.
She said she was ready to go through a trial but in the end felt it had been long enough and was time for closure.
“We are pleased all parties reached an amicable agreement in this proceeding,” Ford said in a statement. “We respect the right to privacy of the parties involved and will not disclose the details of the agreement.”
Ford insisted that its popular sports-utility vehicle is safe.
“For the past 12 years, data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, state safety agencies and the insurance industry has shown that the Explorer has an excellent safety record,” the company said in its statement.
Firestone had no immediate comment other than confirming that a settlement had been reached.