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Plaintiffs’ lawyers from Texas with a tire tread-separation suit going to trial Oct. 16 in Starr County, Tex., will depose four high-ranking executives from Bridgestone/Firestone, including Chief Executive Masatoshi Ono, on Sept. 15 in Nashville. The depositions in the Starr County suit are likely to be the first in tire-tread litigation for Ono and the other executives since Firestone voluntarily recalled 6.5 million tires on Aug. 9. Judge John Pope of the 381st district in Rio Grande City, Tex., signed an order Aug. 25 calling for Bridgestone/Firestone to produce the executives for depositions in Nashville, which is where Firestone, the U.S. subsidiary of Japan’s Bridgestone Corp., is headquartered. The suit against Firestone is on behalf of surviving relatives of a married pair of teachers from McAllen, Tex., who were killed in an accident in their Ford Explorer in May 1999 in Cameron County, Tex. (Ford Motor Co. was non-suited in the suit.) Robert Patterson, one of the plaintiffs’ lawyers in Guillen, et al. v. Bridgestone/Firestone, et al., says he expects plaintiffs’ lawyers from across the United States to cross-notice in the suit so information from the depositions can be used in similar tire-tread separation suits that they have filed against Firestone. Pope also ordered the executives to bring to their depositions documents that were noticed in subpoenas. Patterson, of Patterson & Associates of Corpus Christi, Tex., says they have asked for documents about Firestone’s tire recall program in other countries and its tire-pressure testing. The recall came as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration investigates the safety of the tires after reports of deaths in accidents involving vehicles with the tires and news that the tire maker recalled tires installed on Ford Explorers and pick-up trucks in other countries. Congressional committees also are investigating. A lawyer for Firestone in the Guillen suit, Patrick Zummo, a partner in Zummo, Mitchell & Perry of Houston, did not return a telephone message left at his office on Aug. 25. But Zummo argued, in a response to a plaintiffs’ motion for the depositions, that the company is busy responding to the NHTSA and Congressional inquiries and investigating the causes of the tire failures. “Requiring their time for discovery and deposition appearances on short notice will only interfere with their ability to complete the planned recall while Firestone works with the federal government to identify the root cause or causes of the tire failures,” Zummo wrote in the response.

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