Settlement Reached in Shinhoster Trial

Litigants reached a surprise settlement Wednesday morning in the wrongful death case of civil rights leader Earl Shinhoster. Shinhoster's widow filed the case against Ford Motors and Firestone/Bridgestone Tires.

Word of the settlement came just as lawyers were seating a jury in a Macon County courthouse. Lawyers for both sides say they won't comment on the amount Shinhoster's family settled for - but Tuesday, jurors were told the family wanted tens of millions of dollars. The case stems from the June 2000 car accident that killed Shinhoster on Interstate 85 near Tuskegee.

The family said a Firestone Tire failed and the Ford Explorer he was riding in rolled over far too easily; product defects that should not have left either company's factories.

Firestone was ready to attack that contention because the tire in question sat around for seven years after it was first sold, then damaged and thrown away. The company says it was then taken from the dump and sold at a used tire lot. Firestone said it would not have come from the factory in that condition.

Neither company is accepting blame. Firestone's representatives say they were ready to go forward with their case, and just because they settled, it doesn't mean the tire was at fault.

There is no word from Ford yet, but a lawyer for one of the passengers in the Explorer, Greg Allen, says he's going to reveal some new information Wednesday afternoon that the public should know. He says he has a statement from Firestone's CEO that will paint the Explorer as a dangerous truck.

WSFA is dedicated to continued coverage of this developing story. Stay tuned to 12 News for the latest information on the News at Five, Six, and Ten.

Produced by: Vanessa Staples