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Police lawsuit alleges carbon monoxide poisoning from Ford Explorer

Phoebe Wall Howard, Detroit Free Press on

Published in Automotive News

Six Washington state troopers have sued Ford, claiming their patrol vehicles made them sick from carbon monoxide poisoning. The officers blame a design flaw in 2014-17 Explorer SUVs modified for police duty.

The troopers allege their department-issued vehicles have a faulty exhaust and/or heating, ventilation and air conditioning system that allow "exhaust odor and gases, including carbon monoxide -- an odorless, toxic gas, to enter the passenger compartment of the vehicles while in use." As a result, the lawsuit filed in Clark County Superior Court said, the vehicles cause headaches, dizziness, nausea and potentially life-threatening situations.

In the lawsuit, troopers allege that the "hazardous defect" has resulted in numerous complaints to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the opening of a federal investigation into the vehicles. The lawsuit also notes that "Ford has recently issued an emission recall notice for all Ford Interceptor SUVs built from 2011-18."

"The defect is not new to Ford," the lawsuit says. As early as 2012, Ford had "issued Technical Service Bulletins to its exclusive network of dealers, recognizing the presence of exhaust odors and fumes."

Nausea, rollover crash

In addition, the lawsuit noted the federal traffic safety investigation summary reports "three crash events and 25 injury incidents citing a total of 41 injuries. The alleged injuries ... range from unspecified to loss of consciousness with a majority indicating nausea, headaches or light-headedness. One police incident alleged a crash with related injuries, and a second police incident reported a physiological injury allegedly from carbon monoxide exposure. Another reported police incident resulted in a rollover crash event with injuries."


Ford spokesman Mike Levine said Monday in a statement to the Free Press: "As we have previously said, carbon monoxide concerns in Police Interceptor Utilities are related to unsealed holes from the installation of police equipment by third parties after the vehicle was purchased."

Police departments in more than a dozen states raised concerns about possible carbon monoxide leaks, including California.

Newport Beach police officer Brian McDowell was responding to a non-emergency call when he passed out behind the wheel of his 2014 Ford Explorer police cruiser and crashed into a tree, reported CBS News. "I just think, plus or minus one second I maybe wouldn't be here on this earth for my kids," he told the network in 2017.

Cops 'live in these cruisers'


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