A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by a Newport Beach woman and a San Diego man who claimed they were robbed of their inheritance from their grandmother, tire heiress Dorothy Firestone Galbreath.
In a ruling last Friday, a judge in Columbus, Ohio, found that Amy Firestone del Valle of Newport Beach and her cousin, Douglas Firestone of San Diego, did not have legal standing to challenge the dead woman's will. The suit sought $1.3 billion in damages.
U.S. District Judge James L. Graham gave the plaintiffs 30 days to amend and refile their lawsuit, but indicated that he doubted they could overcome legal obstacles to such a challenge, said Robert Kincaid, a lawyer who defended members of the Galbreath family.
"It's a tragedy," said Del Valle. "I just want to see justice done. I know what my grandmother intended for her grandchildren."
Douglas Firestone was not available for comment Monday.
One of their lawyers, James H. Ackerman of Long Beach, said the two grandchildren will "definitely" pursue the case by appealing Graham's decision or submitting revised pleadings to the court.
Del Valle and Douglas Firestone filed suit in 1988. Six other grandchildren were later added as plaintiffs.
The grandchildren contended that Galbreath's late husband, John Galbreath, her stepson Daniel, other family members, a law firm and an accounting firm exerted undue influence on her before she died, diverting the bulk of her $24-million estate to themselves and leaving nothing in a trust established for the grandchildren.
Galbreath gained her wealth from her first husband, Russell A. Firestone, son of Harvey Firestone, the founder of Firestone Tire & Rubber. She died in February, 1986, at the age of 84. The Galbreath family, well-known real estate developers, were once chief owners of the Pittsburgh Pirates and still operate Darby Dan Farm, a posh training and breeding ground for Thoroughbred racehorses near Columbus.
In a prepared statement, Daniel Galbreath said the lawsuit represented "an unfounded attempt . . . to destroy the memory of a loving relationship between John and Dorothy Galbreath."
"We hope that the court's decision will now put us in a position to resolve this matter once and for all and to close a very unhappy chapter in the lives of both the Galbreath family and the Firestone family."
The statement noted that the grandchildren had also challenged the will in Franklin County, Ohio, probate court, and that action was thrown out in January.