Cooper Tire and Rubber Co. has settled a lawsuit against one of Mississippi's top legal firms as it was scheduled to go to trial in federal court in Oxford.
The Findlay, Ohio-based tire company's lawsuit sought $189 million from attorney John Booth Farese of Ashland, the Farese law firm and attorney Bruce Kaster of Ocala, Fla. It stemmed from the release of a legal document that Cooper claims hurt its stock.
Terms of the settlement announced Wednesday were not disclosed.
"Cooper Tire is very pleased with the settlement of this case," said Cooper Tire spokeswoman Patricia J. Brown. She declined further comment, citing the confidentiality of the settlement.
Cooper Tire attorney Randall Smith of New Orleans said he was a little disappointed the case didn't go to trial.
"We were ready to try the case," he said. "But settlement's in the best interests of all concerned. You never know the outcome" of a trial.
Farese and Kaster said they were satisfied with the results.
According to court documents, Cooper Tire alleged that former employee Cathy Barnett signed a separation agreement with a clause that prevented her from making negative comments about the company.
The tire manufacturer claimed that despite the agreement, Barnett executed an affidavit, prepared with Farese, containing false and disparaging statements about Cooper Tire.
Farese provided Barnett's affidavit to another attorney, who provided it to Kaster for use in a lawsuit against Cooper Tire in Arkansas. Cooper Tire alleged Kaster, the attorney for families of four Arkansas residents killed in a 1998 accident blamed on a tire blowout, leaked the affidavit to the media. That case was settled in 2002.
The affidavit had to do with the destruction of company documents by Barnett and another worker on the order of a Cooper Tire official in Tupelo. Barnett said the documents were related to the Arkansas lawsuit.
As a result, Cooper Tire claimed its stock lost substantial value.
The company alleged Kaster paid Farese $50,000 after the Arkansas lawsuit was settled.
Farese contended in court documents that he was protecting his client and insists Cooper Tire wasn't damaged.
Kaster said in court papers that he learned about the affidavit from an attorney associated with the Cooper Tire case in Arkansas and went after it to benefit his own client, saying the media already had access to it.