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Florida woman sues Ford over carbon monoxide in Explorers

If automakers have learned anything from the troubles that General Motors has experienced due to its delays in dealing with its defective ignition switch, it’s to take swift and complete action when a problem is reported. Now a problem that Ford Motor Co. identified in 2012 is coming back to haunt it in the form of a lawsuit that could become a class-action case.

It involves Ford Explorer sport-utility vehicles manufactured in the past few years. Carbon monoxide has reportedly been found in the passenger area of some SUVs. In Dec. 2012, the automaker issued a technical service bulletin that discussed several ways to fix the problem if customers reported an exhaust odor. However, the company did not mention any safety concerns or issue a recall.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says it has received reports from 20 consumers complaining of exhaust fumes in 2011 through 2014 Explorers. One reported being hospitalized after becoming “violently ill.” Some said that dealers failed to make any repairs when they reported the odor. NHTSA says that it hasn’t yet begun an official investigation, but "is reviewing all available data and will take appropriate action as warranted." One Florida woman, however, has taken action. She filed a lawsuit last month in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida. She is seeking class action status for the suit, which alleges unfair trade practices violation and breach of warranty. The plaintiff also calls for Ford to be ordered to recall and properly repair the SUVs. Her attorney says the fixes outlined in the technical service bulletin failed to eliminate the smell from his client’s 2013 Explorer. Further, he says the dealer told her that no carbon monoxide was entering the vehicle.

Independent testing, according to the attorney, showed something completely different. He says that 100 parts per million of the potentially-deadly gas were found in the vehicle. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, anything above 70 parts per million is potentially harmful, especially if a person is exposed to it over a period of time.

Civil legal action often proves a strong incentive for companies to take action on harmful or defective products that they wouldn’t otherwise take. Personal injury attorneys can help investigate issues and get evidence from independent sources that manufacturers and those affiliated with the product, such as car dealers either won’t or fail to provide.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, "Ford, Safety Regulator Study Reports Exhaust in SUVs," Mike Ramsey, June 20, 2014

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