Tires, Trials, and Truth

Adam L. Penenberg’s retelling of the Ford-Firestone debacle is both a gripping court-room drama and an insightful investigation.

Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.


This gripping account of the Ford-Firestone
debacle has all the elements of a Hollywood legal thriller — so it’s no surprise
that a film adaptation starring Michael Douglas is already in the works. The victim,
Donna Bailey, is a single mother who became a quadriplegic after an SUV crash.
Her lawyer, Tab Turner, is an affable crusader, equal parts Atticus Finch and Ralph
Nader. Ford and Firestone, meanwhile, implausibly deny any responsibility until
the bitter end. The little guy wins, of course: Bailey gets $27 million in legal
settlements and forces Ford lawyers to visit her hospital bed and apologize.

Beyond the courtroom drama, Tragic
Indifference
catalogs chilling facts: In a single decade, rollover-happy
Explorers killed more than 200 people and endangered millions. While exposes
and lawsuits mounted, each company blamed the other. Ford accused Firestone of making
shoddy tires. Firestone faulted Ford for underinflating their tires. They were both
right: Ford and Firestone had each cut corners, sacrificing safety on the altar
of profits.

Penenberg holds scant faith in government
regulation and says litigation is the best way to hold irresponsible corporations
accountable. Yet his narrative also shows how skilled corporations have become at
discreetly settling lawsuits — and getting back to business as usual.

We've never been very good at being conservative.

And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

payment methods

We've never been very good at being conservative.

And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate