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Student files suit agains maker of tires

By Times staff writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published January 31, 2001


CLEARWATER -- A Florida State University student involved in a car accident last year filed a lawsuit Tuesday against the maker of Firestone tires, which has recalled millions of tires since August.

Nicole Wilson of Fort Lauderdale and four sorority sisters were on Interstate 75 in Manatee County on March 5 when tread on one of the tires separated. The GMC Suburban veered into the median and flipped twice.

Claire Kantor was thrown from the car and killed. Wilson suffered leg and back injuries, said her attorney, Greg Barnhart of West Palm Beach.

More than 6-million Firestone tires used on sport utility vehicles and light trucks have been replaced since the initial Aug. 9 recall.

The tire on the Suburban was similar to the tires recalled by Bridgestone/Firestone, but was a slightly different size and not part of the recall, Barnhart said.

The five young women were heading south after spending two days of spring break at the beach, visiting the Salvador Dali Museum and relaxing in St. Petersburg.

The right rear tire blew out near the Linger Lodge Road overpass on Interstate 75. The driver, Dorothy Stephens of Treasure Island, and the three other passengers were injured.

In addition to Firestone, Wilson's lawsuit in Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Court was filed against Tire Kingdom and Ms. Stephens. The owners of the car, John Stephens, the driver's father, and his company, Bama Sea Products Inc., also were sued. The Kantors filed a similar suit last September.

The front two tires were replaced with Michelin tires, but the rear two remained Firestone.

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