Firestone settles faulty tire lawsuit in couple's death

The family of a retired couple decapitated in a car wreck near Manchester, Tenn., has settled a lawsuit against tire company Firestone over the death.

The amount of money the family received is confidential, but Leigh May, who represented the family, said they would have liked to see the case in court.

"It was bittersweet for the family. They were looking forward to the trial when they could bring these issues further to light," she said. "We got to the point where Firestone was offering an excellent settlement in terms of compensation."

Firestone representatives were not available to comment Thursday, but the company did not take responsibility for the accident.

Leonard Heavrin, 62, and his wife Nancy, 57, died driving from their Indiana home to visit family in Florida on Nov. 10, 2005. As they traveled down Interstate 24, a Walker County, Ga., man's Firestone tire blew, his truck crossed the median and smashed the couple's vehicle, decapitating both of them.

The settlement took a particularly long time, according to May, a partner with Atlanta law firm Butler, Wooten & Fryhofer. In faulty product cases, most all documentation is held by the party being sued. That means court orders must be sought on most all the documents needed to build a case.

If not for the settlement, May expects the case would have come to a two- to three-week-long trial by the end of the year.

"We were hoping the case would have moved forward a lot more quickly than it had," she said. "We had plaintiffs who were completely innocent."

The family contended that after Firestone was bought by Japanese manufacturer Bridgestone, the company started cutting material costs, increasing the number of tires built per day and reducing trials before bringing tires to market.

In addition to the settlement, the insurance company of William Chastain, the driver of the truck that struck the Heavrins, agreed to pay damages up to the limit of its liability.