Managing a Legal Crisis

When a defect investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and a subsequent recall of more than 14 million tires threatened the viability of Bridgestone/ Firestone, the company turned to Holland & Knight to assist in managing the legal crisis.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) initiated a defect investigation into approximately 47 million tires manufactured by Bridgestone/Firestone, Inc. in May 2000, followed several months later by the company's announcement that it would recall 14.4 million of the tires in question. An onslaught of thousands of lawsuits and major legal claims quickly ensued.

With the impact of the recall and associated claims threatening the financial stability of the company, Bridgestone/Firestone called upon Holland & Knight's Product Liability Team to play a key role in managing the legal crisis. Our firm swiftly assembled teams of attorneys to handle or participate in every facet of the situation, including legislative hearings and administrative proceedings; public relations and crisis management; federal multi-district litigation and consolidated state court proceedings; and hundreds of individual actions and claims. We were also directly responsible for management and support functions, including document retrieval, review and set up of document depositories; fact witness identification and preparation; expert witness development and coordination; jury research and technical trial preparation and a settlement resolution program.

Despite media predictions that Bridgestone/Firestone would not survive the crisis and its attendant costs, our team guided the company through a host of investigations, proceedings and litigation throughout the country. The investigatory and regulatory proceedings and consolidated and class action litigations were successfully concluded, and the company obtained the resolution or dismissal of thousands of lawsuits and major claims. While we continue to serve as lead and national counsel for the company in a limited number of remaining claims arising from the August 2000 recall, the crisis is well behind Bridgestone/Firestone (now known as Bridgestone Americas) and it has long since returned to profitability.