Giammalvo Files
Mark Giammalvo

Mark Giammalvo specializes in driveability diagnostics at his family business, Sam Giammalvo's Auto Sales & Service, Inc. in New Bedford, MA.   

Mark, who has been with the business for over 20 years, is an ASE  Master Technician and Parts Specialist. He also holds the ASE L1 certification, and has an associates degree in business management.
Mark is also a writer for Motor Age Magazine and is the past secretary of the Alliance of Automotive Service Professionals, (AASP).

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 Visions Of Dollar Signs

(Printed in the Journal of The Alliance of Automotive Service Providers, AASP) 

Tired of all the "class action" litigation letters you have been receiving lately? Well, get ready because more are on the way.

I am constantly amazed by the amount of class action lawsuit letters that I am routinely inundated with on a weekly basis. The most recent involves Firestone again. In this class action suit against Firestone, a woman suing Firestone represents all the Plaintiffs. Here I will attempt to summarize the confusing eight pages of litigation toilet paper I received.

The Plaintiff represents anyone who purchased, leased or owned the Firestone-made tires at any time between 1991 and 2002. The lawsuit background: In May of 2000 the National Highway and Transportation Safety Administration, (NHTSA), investigated and subsequently forced recall of certain Firestone tires. During that recall NHTSA investigated many other types and sizes of Firestone tires made at that time. After completing their investigation, NHTSA decided not to recall any of the additional investigated tires. The Plaintiff in this case is representing a nationwide class of persons who owned Firestone-brand ATZ, ATX II, Wilderness AT and other tires investigated, by NHTSA.

The Plaintiff claims that Firestone sold the tires without telling consumers that they contain alleged defects that make them prone to tread separation. In particular, the Plaintiff claims that the tires are defective because they lack a design feature called a "nylon cap ply" or "cap strip."
The Plaintiff further claims that had consumers known of the alleged defects, they would have paid less for the tires than what was actually paid. The Plaintiff seeks to recover damages from Firestone for herself and the class. Firestone denies all allegations and believes that the suit is meritless and that the class does not have damages since the class members used the tires without incident or problem.

After reading this I can tell you that  had visions of dollar signs dancing in my head. I figured it would be a lot of work, but I knew through our computer system I could determine how many of those tires we had purchased over the years. Without even calculating, I started realizing that we would be in for quite the settlement check. As usual with these class actions, I was again in for a surprise.
Reading the "Decision to Settle" paragraph proved enlightening:

The lawyers representing Plaintiff and the members of the Class have made a thorough investigation of the law and facts relating to the lawsuits pending against Defendants. Those lawyers have reviewed thousands of documents from Defendants, government agencies, and other public sources, taken numerous depositions, retained and consulted with experts, and analyzed numerous questions of law. The parties have engaged in extensive arm's length negotiations, which resulted in an agreement to settle this litigation as set forth in the Stipulation of Settlement. In agreeing to the Stipulation, Plaintiff and Plaintiff's counsel considered the risks of continued litigation and the likelihood of success, balanced against the substantial benefits to the Tire Settlement Class as a result of the Settlement. Plaintiff and her lawyers have concluded that the Settlement is fair, reasonable, and adequate and in the best interest of the Tire Settlement Class. Defendants have denied all wrongdoing and any liability to the Plaintiff and the Tire Settlement Class. Defendants nonetheless have agreed to enter into the Stipulation to avoid further expense, burden, distraction, and inconvenience of litigation.

My hopes of any cash out of this deal went fading fast after reading that "purchasers of tires for resale" were exempt from the proposed settlement. Then again, I didn't miss much. A brief description of the settlement terms follows:

Firestone Agrees To:

(a) Tire Design and Manufacturing Changes. Firestone has agreed that, for a period of at least seven years, it will manufacture and sell a specified group of tire sizes and brands with designs that include cap belts/strips, nylon belts/strips, or other comparable technology intended to provide equivalent or better high-speed capability for such tires.

(b) Consumer Education Program. Firestone will conduct a consumer safety awareness program -- using national media, a web site, point-of-sale materials, direct mail, and other efforts -- with an annual budget of $5,150,000 and a term of three years from the time of settlement. This program is to be submitted to the Court for review and approval and will focus on enhanced consumer awareness of tire and vehicle safety issues.

In addition, Firestone will get a release of all further litigation from the class members. Oh well, as typical with these class actions, there is nothing left for me. Nothing left for the hundreds of thousands of people in the class that had a vehicle with those tires. One large figure on the last page of the action caught my eye though. The figure was 19,000,000. Yes that's 19 million. It is the amount that the Plaintiff's Attorney's will collect from Firestone. Oh, and the Plaintiff, she gets a measly 2,500. Well, at least she can buy a decent set of tires and wheels.




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