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Ford Motor Co. said it’s reached a settlement in a lawsuit involving a rollover accident of a Ford Explorer, just as the suit was about to go to trial. Ford declined to discuss details of Tuesday’s settlement, citing the family’s right to privacy. A family spokesman said he did not know specifics of the agreement. Margarita Gonzalez, 59, died last year when the Explorer she was in rolled over after a tread separated on one of the vehicle’s Firestone tires. Gonzalez’s son, Alfredo, was driving the vehicle at high speed. He was left brain damaged. Surviving family members had been seeking damages for wrongful death, malice and gross negligence. The family had already settled with Bridgestone/Firestone. “Since their Ford Explorer rolled over on July 13, 2000, this has been very painful for the Gonzalez family,” Skip Rutherford, a spokesman for the family, said in a statement. “Now, as a result of a settlement reached with Ford Motor Co., the healing for the Gonzalez family can begin.” Ford spokeswoman Kathleen Vokes said a trial would have allowed the company to present evidence that the Ford Explorer “is one of the safest vehicles on the road.” Still, she said, the company preferred to settle the case. “The only people who benefit from trial are plaintiffs’ attorneys,” Vokes said. The trial had been scheduled to begin Wednesday. Another rollover trial ended abruptly last month when Bridgestone/Firestone agreed to pay nearly $8 million to Marisa Rodriguez, who was left paralyzed and brain-damaged in a crash. Ford and Bridgestone/Firestone, partners for nearly 100 years, went their separate ways earlier this year and began blaming one another for the accidents. Under pressure from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Bridgestone/Firestone, a subsidiary of Japan’s Bridgestone Corp., agreed last summer to recall 6.5 million tires. Ford said it would replace an additional 13 million Firestone tires sold with its vehicles. Another suit involving the crash of a Ford with Firestone tires had been set for Sept. 10 in Laredo, Texas, but was postponed until November. Copyright 2001 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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