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Groups Seek Firestone Documents

September 15, 2000 GMT

BRUNSWICK, Ga. (AP) _ Four news organizations have asked a federal judge to unseal documents from a 1998 lawsuit filed by the parents of a 19-year-old Florida man who died after a Ford Explorer with Firestone tires crashed.

The Washington Post Co., CBS Broadcasting, the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune Co. have filed motions to have the documents unsealed. The companies assert that it is in the public interest to have the evidence published.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is investigating at least 88 deaths and more than 250 injuries over the past decade involving Firestone tires.

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Michael D. and Kim Van Etten of Jupiter, Fla., filed the $21 million product liability claim against Firestone/Bridgestone Inc. and Ford Motor Co. after Daniel Paul Van Etten died March 7, 1997.

The 19-year-old was driving a friend’s 1993 Explorer that rolled over on Interstate 95 in Camden County when the tread separated from a Firestone Radial ATX, one of the types among 6.5 million tires recalled by Firestone last month.

The parties agreed to a settlement in August 1999. The terms were sealed along with evidence provided during the discovery process in the case.

Firestone said just 15 of the 300 filings in the case were under seal. The tire maker said those documents contain confidential technical information, trade secrets, research and development information; and their disclosure would aid competitors.