State troopers in Washington have filed a class action lawsuit against the Ford Motor Company alleging that the Ford Police Interceptor Utilities vehicles they drove while on the job caused them to be exposed to noxious gases. Many of the officers claim they became ill and suffered physiological injuries because of the defect.
The lawsuit was filed at the beginning of August and states that a defect in the exhaust, ventilation, and heating and AC system caused the problem. Vehicles manufactured from 2014 through 2017 are listed in the lawsuit.
Officers Exposed to Carbon Monoxide While Driving
According to the complaint, the defect allowed carbon monoxide to enter the passenger compartment of the vehicles while they were in use. The class action lawsuit includes six plaintiffs claiming they experienced a variety of symptoms associated with carbon monoxide poisoning, including nausea, headaches, flu-like symptoms, and foggy thinking. One plaintiff claims to have experienced permanent neurological damage and as a result, he had to leave his position as a trooper.
Ford admitted that some of the police vehicles did have unsealed holes after police equipment was installed in the vehicles by a third party, but because this occurred after the vehicles were purchased, Ford does not believe it should be held responsible for anyone’s injuries.
The National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration (NHTSA) investigated exhaust doors on vehicles in July 2017, after it received several complaints from consumers about Ford Explorers. The agency told Automotive News that among its test vehicles were vehicles driven by both civilians and law enforcement. The agency has not yet publicly released the results of the testing and said it won’t do so until testing is complete.
The agency did say that so far “no substantive data or actual evidence” has been found regarding any injuries or crashes related to carbon monoxide poisoning of Ford Explorer drivers. It did note that the police vehicles had exhaust manifold cracks, which likely caused the problem with the exhaust odor.
Ford Stands behind the Safety of Its Vehicles; Addresses Issues with Holes and Unsealed Spaces
Ford stated in response to the lawsuit stating its Explorers are safe and that significantly fewer complaints were filed after the company offered a free service for those experiencing exhaust odors. The company encouraged anyone experiencing concerns about their vehicles to contact the dealership where they purchased it.
Ford did acknowledge it had worked with police forces in 2017 to address issues with carbon monoxide concerns after an inspection revealed “holes and unsealed spaces.” Affected were vehicles that had been customized with lighting, radios, and other law enforcement equipment after they’d left the factory.
At that time, Ford provided a calibration of air conditioning units intended to bring in fresh air during heavy acceleration, which is common among law enforcement. The company also offered to seal off rear openings and check engines on police vehicles to determine if any alerts could indicate a problem with exhaust fumes. Ford covered only the cost of some repairs for vehicles involved.
The Center for Auto Safety called for a recall of more than one million Ford Explorers manufactured from 2011 to 2017 in 2017 and again in 2018 after there was a spike in complaints of carbon monoxide leaks. The executive director of the center called Ford’s response to consumers “insulting.” He also noted that if the problem with the law enforcement vehicles did not occur until after-market modifications were made, as the company claims, there would have been no complaints from civilian consumers about their vehicles.