Olympia, WA – Six Washington state troopers have filed a lawsuit against a car manufacturer for giving them carbon monoxide poisoning.
The lawsuit filed against Ford Motor Company in Clark County Superior Court said that there is a design flaw in all its civilian and law enforcement Explorer SUVs built between 2011 and 2018, KOMO reported.
The troopers alleged that their Ford-made police vehicles caused headaches, dizziness, and nausea, and put their lives in danger, the Detroit Free Press reported.
Ford Motor Company denied responsibility for the trooper’s illnesses.
"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,” Ford Spokesman Mike Levine told the Detroit Free Press.
But the trooper’s lawsuit noted that "Ford has recently issued an emission recall notice for all Ford Interceptor SUVs built from 2011-18."
The lawsuit alleged that a “hazardous defect” led to many complaints to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and cited summary reports from a federal traffic safety investigation that found three related crash events and a total of 41 related injuries, according to the Detroit Free Press.
The injuries included loss of consciousness, as well as nausea, headaches, and light-headedness.
The Detroit Free Press reported that police departments in more than a dozen states had expressed concerns about carbon monoxide in their Ford SUVs.
"Current plaintiffs are troopers who were issued the Ford Explorer Interceptors as their regular patrol vehicles,” the lawsuit said. “Plaintiffs were advised that the vehicles were safe to drive and that there were no problems which would cause them any hazard, injury or harm. Plaintiffs detected exhaust fumes within the passenger compartment of their vehicles while driving and plaintiffs have suffered headaches, nausea, foggy thinking and flu-like symptoms.”
Washington State Patrol Trooper Randall Cashatt said he thought he was having a heart attack and going to die when he suffered carbon monoxide poisoning in his Ford Explorer police vehicle, KOIN reported.
“Some plaintiffs, including Trooper Cashatt, has suffered permanent neurological damage which has prevented him from continuing his job as a Washington State Patrol Trooper,” attorney Josephine Townsend wrote in the lawsuit.
In the suit, Townsend specifically blamed “…metal exhaust manifolds which warped and allowed carbon monoxide to leak out and then be sucked into air intakes…”
But Ford Motor Company pushed back against the attorney’s assertions.
“We typically don’t comment on pending litigation. Safety is one of our top priorities. Ford has investigated and determined that 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 or caused by extreme damage. All of our testing to date has not shown cracked manifolds contributing to the carbon monoxide levels in Police Interceptor Utilities,” Ford Spokesman Daniel Barbossa told KOIN in a written statement.
But the trooper’s claims are supported by the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries who investigated and issued three citations against the Washington State Patrol.
“Exhaust issues have been discovered as the source of the exposure in most of the vehicles: cracked manifolds, warped manifolds, and other leaks in the exhaust system,” read part of the state’s report, according to KOIN.
Townsend said she planned to file a related lawsuit on behalf of her clients against the Washington State Patrol.
She said that the state patrol’s failure to properly monitor the problem added to the damage done to the troopers, KOMO reported.
The lawsuit against Ford Motor Company does not name a dollar figure but said that damages exceeded $100,000, KOIN reported.