September 19, 2002
COURT CASE NO.:
On October 31,1999 five college students attending The University of Southern California were returning to campus on Interstate 5, having traveled up north to watch the USC – CAL (Berkeley) football game. While driving south on I-5, the left rear Firestone tire on the Ford Explorer separated, causing the Explorer to fishtail. Because of the historic instability problems of Ford’s SUV, the Explorer rolled over several times and ejected and killed seatbelted passenger, 19 year old Cathy Dizon. The other passengers, Christine Tang, Karen Herco and Marissa Parsons received various injuries and were also represented by Gary Eto. Driver Cristina Hernandez also received injuries.
After this tragedy, the Dizon family retained Gary Eto, who secured the evidence in November of 1999, and immediately began his investigation into what would ultimately lead to probably the largest recall in the history of the world. The Firestone tires and Ford Explorers were causing deaths in places such as the Middle East, South America, Malaysia and Thailand, as well as the United States. Ford and Firestone quietly initiated “recall” programs in these countries before doing so in the United States. The defective Firestone tires were original equipment on the already unstable SUV- Ford Explorer. The evidence showed that Firestone was pressured by Ford to compromise the quality and quantity of the materials it put into its tires, simply to lower Ford’s production costs.
On April 28, 2000, Gary Eto filed a lawsuit against Bridgestone/Firestone and Ford Motor Company alleging both design and manufacturing defects against both Ford and Firestone for fatalities and injuries arising out of the rollover propensity of the Ford Explorer when induced by a tread separation of a defective Firestone tire. See, Dizon v. Bridgestone/Firestone, Ford Motor Company, et al, Los Angeles Superior Court Case No. BC229087.
Several months later, Firestone, and Ford publicly recalled the tires in the United States.
After the August 8, 2000, National recall by both Ford and Firestone, many plaintiffs followed the lead set by Gary Eto in California, filing similar lawsuits. Soon thereafter, the cases in California were coordinated, and Gary Eto was on the Plaintiffs steering committee, and was one of the three lead attorneys at the forefront of the litigation in California. The recall was Nationwide, and Gary Eto spearheaded the Federal litigation as well, traveling across the country to places to depose various corporate witnesses such as Ford Motor Company’s former president and CEO Jacques Nasser, and Bridgestone/ Firestone’s CEO, John Lampe. Gary Eto handled several cases against Ford and Firestone. To date, no case in California has proceeded as far in terms of trial and jury selection as the Dizon case. Firestone and Ford settled the Dizon case, as well as all other cases filed by Gary C. Eto, pursuant to confidential agreements.
For more information, see Eto, Gary, “Global Recall: The History of the Firestone Tire Debacle“, The Journal of the Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles, The Advocate, June 2001.