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.

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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.

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily bluster—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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