On a beautiful Saturday in March 2000, Donna Bailey, a 43-year old mother of two, traveled with two friends to a climbing expedition in Texas in a Ford Explorer equipped with Firestone tires. One of the tires suddenly started to separate, and the Explorer skidded and rolled. Despite wearing her seatbelt, Bailey was left paralyzed from the neck down.
Defective Firestone tires on Ford Explorers took the lives of at least 271 people and seriously injured many more before the companies issued the largest tire recall in history. Internal company documents would later show that the two corporations had known of the deadly tire separation and associated rollover problems for years but had done everything they could to hide it. They were undeterred by federal regulators at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which only had the power to impose a maximum fine of $925,000.
It was through the civil justice system that Donna Bailey was able to obtain some measure of justice. As part of her settlement, Ford agreed to release internal documents about the tire and rollover problems, and executives visited her to personally apologize.
Thanks to cases like that of Donna Bailey, the civil justice system publicly highlighted the problem and forced the companies and regulators to take action.