July 27, 2001 - Man Sues Firestone Over Wife's Death

The family of a Maywood woman killed in a September 1999 traffic accident has filed a lawsuit against Bridgestone/Firestone and Ford, blaming the tires on her Explorer for the fatal crash.

Julian Payano filed the lawsuit in Superior Court in Hackensack on Monday, joining a legion of plaintiffs nationwide who are suing the embattled companies, which have recalled millions of defective tires since last summer.

Payano's wife, Consuelo Guardia of East Passaic Street, was killed Sept. 6, 1999, as she drove on the Palisades Interstate Parkway in Rockland County, N.Y., said lawyer James Sellinger of Clifton. Sellinger would not discuss the crash in detail but said the Explorer was equipped with Wilderness AT Firestone tires. He said he didn't know the size of the tires on Guardia's Explorer, which the lawsuit says she bought at Stadium Ford in Rutherford about 10 months before the accident.

Last summer, the tire manufacturer recalled about 6.5 million tires in the P235/75R15 Radial ATX and ATX II models. It also recalled Wilderness AT in that same size that were built at the company's Decatur, Ill., plant. More than 200 deaths have been attributed to accidents related to those tires, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

In May, Ford went a step further, recalling all other Firestone Wilderness model tires on Ford and Mercury sport-utility vehicles and light trucks. The recall accounted for about 13 million tires, the NHTSA said.

The Payano lawsuit alleges that Bridgestone/Firestone's recall was insufficient and came too late to save Guardia, who died 11 months before the company's recall. It also accuses Ford of improperly recommending that car owners under-inflate their tires to reduce the risk of rollovers. Bridgestone/Firestone officials have insisted that the Explorer's design makes the car more prone to rollovers when the tire suffers a tread separation.

Since last year, the NHTSA has been investigating the safety of more than 50 million Firestone tires to determine whether additional models or sizes need to be recalled. The agency is also probing claims regarding the Explorer's alleged design flaws.

The Bergen County lawsuit, which seeks unspecified punitive damages, accuses the defendants of acting with "ill will, bad motive, and reckless indifference to the interests of the consumers."

Among the allegations are that the tire company failed to use nylon overlays that could have helped prevent tread separation. The lawsuit also accuses the company of using old and dried-out material to make tires, and of employing substandard inspection practices.

In all tire blowout and rollover cases it is essential that measures be taken promptly to preserve evidence, investigate the accident in question, and to enable physicians or other expert witnesses to thoroughly evaluate any injuries. If you or a loved one is a victim of a serious automobile accident, call now at or CLICK HERE TO SUBMIT A CASE FORM. The initial consultation is free of charge, and if we agree to accept your case, we will work on a contingent fee basis, which means we get paid for our services only if there is a monetary award or recovery of funds. Don't delay! You may have a valid claim and be entitled to compensation for your injuries, but a lawsuit must be filed before the statute of limitations expires.

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