Tragic Indifference is the gut-wrenching account of the biggest product liability case in history: the Ford-Firestone fiasco, where delaminating Firestone tires caused Ford Explorers to lose control and crash at highway speeds. The result was a massive recall, consumer panic, and congressional hearings. It all culminated in a lawsuit that would become a watershed for all future auto safety lawsuits.
In February 2000, reports began to surface of an alarming number of rollover cases involving Ford Explorers traveling on Firestone's Wilderness AT tire. As the stories drove a national frenzy of news coverage, no one seemed to know what was causing the devastation. Until one lawyer, who had been campaigning for years to get Ford to acknowledge the dangerous flaws in the design of the Explorer -- an engineering flaw greatly exacerbated by the use of Firestone's tires -- stepped forward to demand that Ford executives take responsibility for the lethal design of their trucks.
More than a courtroom drama, Tragic Indifference reveals the web of individual stories beneath the national headlines. Weaving together harrowing depictions of the accidents and their consequences with the stories of the men and women who labor to police the auto industry and its reckless cost-cutting, Tragic Indifference will transform the way you view the government, the courts, and the media. Above all, this book shows the price the public pays in wrecked and mangled lives when companies focus more on shaving costs than making quality products.
At the center of the story is Tab Turner, a charismatic trial attorney from Arkansas, who has made a career out of forcing Ford and other automakers to own up to their unsafe practices and to admit that they knowingly trade human lives for profits. Given the almost complete lack of government regulation over the auto industry, Turner has become, in essence, the court of last resort for victims of callous auto companies.
Tragic Indifference also recounts the struggles of Turner's client Donna Bailey, a single mother and outdoor enthusiast who led troubled teens on backpacking trips, as she fought back from the brink of death to confront those ultimately responsible for her accident. Her case became a benchmark for all others that followed.
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PRAISE FOR BLOOD HIGHWAYS
In a stinging invective, journalist Penenberg outlines the ethical failures and calculated improprieties of two principal automotive-industry companies, along with the struggle of attorney Tab Turner to hold them accountable. Already an established consumer-rights lawyer, Turner began to focus on Ford Explorers equipped with Firestone Wilderness tires in the mid to late 1990s, when the number of cases in which the tread separated from a tire and resulted in an often fatal rollover accident began to become significant. ... Penenberg ... offers extensive endnotes from an array of sources to back up his claims ... . It's a comprehensive and disturbing book ... .
Following closely on Keith Bradsher's High and Mighty, this latest indictment of sport utility vehicle (SUV) safety may portend the start of a new movement against these popular vehicles based on the threat they pose to the safety of all motorists. Business journalist Penenberg's work focuses on the Ford/Firestone tire debacle, which was a major news story, and the work of an attorney who repeatedly took on two of the most powerful corporations in the world. The book offers a comprehensive look at a notorious corporate scandal and a courtroom drama and investigation that ends in triumph for the many victims.
Corporate greed is the target of [ Blood Highways], a dramatic account of problems with Ford's popular Bronco and Explorer sport utility vehicles and the Firestone Wilderness AT and ATX tires. Penenberg's book argues persuasively--and sadly--that in this country, corporate accord and profit seem far more important than safety and conscience.
... Adam Penenberg, an investigative reporter who exposed a fabricated New Republic story by journalist Stephen Glass in 1998, has clearly done his own exhaustive reporting. He even boasts at the start: 'All the characters and events depicted in these pages are real.' So are the truths revealed in these pages. At times, you wish they weren't. Penenberg meticulously marches the reader through a human and journalistic drama punctuated by deadly engineering flaws and corporate arrogance that resulted in lives being lost and ruined in the insatiable quest for profits. This is a book about one lawyer's battle and one woman's struggle for survival and justice as billed. But it is far deeper. These two stories intertwine to lead us through the blinding maze of suits and countersuits, whistle-blowers, politicians, consumer advocates, journalists, engineers and corporate executives. The only way out: Build safer cars. Penenberg invites you to feel the sweat, the exhaustion, the fear, the frustration and the pain of all concerned. That's good storytelling, and Penenberg lands the details gracefully.
San Francisco Chronicle
In a swift, dramatic account, Penenberg unspins the convoluted political and legal history of the dangerous automotive pairing. Around Bailey's 10-month odyssey--from the accident on March 10, 2000, to her $27 million settlements with Firestone and Ford in January 2001--he weaves the broader, disastrous stories of both car and tire, and of the various struggles to remove them from American roads. Penenberg tracks Ford's Explorer stability problems back to a May 1987 engineers' report; he digs back to the 1988 Bridgestone-Firestone merger--and a subsequent aggressive cost-cutting spree that reduced the amount of rubber in each tire--to find the root of the ATX and Wilderness tires' fatal flaws. (Along the way, he accumulates an exhaustive, 29-page endnote section.) Penenberg fills the narrative with rich, detailed characters: safety advocates and car investigators, victims and executives, lawyers and journalists. ... [H]owever, the real hero in Penenberg's tale is not Bailey, the bed-bound victim whose case cracked the industry, but Turner, who comes off as a prince among sharp-toothed plaintiffs' attorneys.
New York Law Journal
[ Blood Highways is] a gripping story, and Penenberg tells it well, deftly weaving together the narratives of victims, lawyers and corporate officers alike ... [His] comprehensive investigation into the SUV industry unearths problems that go beyond the Firestone debacle. It shows how institutions put in place to protect consumers have been co-opted by the industries they were created to watch ... SUVs are still not subject to substantial safety regulations, and Americans continue to buy SUVs under the false impression that they are safer than ordinary cars. Penenberg's book begs the question, just who is watching out for our safety?
(These reviews refer to an earlier edition of this book, published as Tragic Indifference by HarperCollins, 2003.)
Adam L. Penenberg is a well-known investigative journalist who has written for the New York Times, Forbes, Wired, Inside, Playboy, and Mother Jones. He garnered national attention in 1998 for exposing a fabricated New Republic story on hacker crime by Stephen Glass, which is portrayed in the movie Shattered Glass. His previous book was Spooked: Espionage in Corporate America.
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