Ford Settles Rollover Lawsuit

Ford Motor Co. has settled a lawsuit filed by the family of a South Texas woman killed in a Ford Explorer rollover last year, the automaker said Tuesday.

The settlement heads off what would have been the first rollover lawsuit against Ford to reach trial.

Both sides were withholding the terms of the settlement in the federal lawsuit brought by the family of Margarita Gonzalez of Harlingen.

The 59-year-old woman died in July of last year when the Explorer she was riding in rolled near Kerrville after a tread separated on the vehicle's right rear tire. Her son, Alfredo, who was driving the vehicle at high speed, was left brain damaged.

A jury had been selected last week for trial of the case. Opening statements were to begin Wednesday.

Gonzalez and her son had been returning from a family wedding in California. The tire had been replaced in California following a failure as they departed.

Surviving family members were seeking wrongful-death, malice, and gross-negligence damages. The family had already settled with tire maker Bridgestone/Firestone Inc.

The Gonzalez case bears similarities to one heard last month in a federal courtroom in McAllen. Both were single-vehicle accidents last year involving 1998 Ford Explorers that rolled over after the right rear Firestone tire failed.

In the first case, Dr. Joel Rodriguez sued after his wife, Marisa, was left brain-damaged and paralyzed after an accident. Rodriguez settled with Ford but put Firestone on trial.

During the trial, Firestone lawyers accused Dearborn, Mich.-based Ford of making a vehicle it knew couldn't withstand tread separations. Jurors began deliberating, but before they reached a verdict, Firestone agreed to pay the family $7.5 million.