ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — A major car company is facing lawsuits from people across Florida as experts find more evidence that toxic carbon monoxide could be leaking into a certain vehicle model.
Channel 9's Field Sutton began looking into the lawsuits law week when drivers began reporting that Ford's Explorer Police Interceptor model was having problems nationwide, prompting changes at local agencies.
Some Central Florida families contacted Eyewitness News saying they’ve had their own issues with carbon monoxide in the civilian version of the Explorer.
Michael Dalton and his wife, Krista Dalton, of Palm Bay, said it was their son that caused them to noticed the problem with their 2014 Ford Explorer.
“We hadn’t had an asthma attack with him in a good year,” said Michael Dalton, who added that doctors previously believed his son was growing out of the condition. But almost immediately after leasing a 2014 Explorer, he said his son was having to use his inhaler any time he was in the car.
“It was just strange that it kept happening in the car,” said Krista Dalton.
The couple said they fought with Ford for months, first to be believed that their SUV had a problem, and then to have it fixed.
“They adjusted some louvers around the rear tail pipes. Didn’t help,” said Michael Dalton. “They did the sealant. That didn’t help.
It turns out, the Daltons weren’t alone.
“The problem is, they didn’t fully treat all the open cavities,” said Jay Zembower of Zembower’s Auto Center, speaking about another Explorer he had examined and the holes allegedly left in it for carbon monoxide to seep in from the exhaust system.
He said he had found similar problems in a number of Explorers said to have been repaired by dealerships using any of Ford’s four technical service bulletins documenting customer complaints of exhaust entering the cabin.
Zembower said he sees Explorers with carbon monoxide problems frequently and that, often times, Ford’s prescribed fix is unreliable.
“We’ve got multiple clients where Ford has done the repair. Some have been successful. Some have not,” said Zembower, who partnered with Orlando attorney Mike Morgan of the Morgan & Morgan law firm to investigate another unnamed family’s case.
That lawsuit was rooted in a Jacksonville woman’s daily driving between homes that she says led to headaches and dizziness, after purchasing her Explorer.
“She brought her car in to Ford and told them what was happening and that was in June of 2015,” Morgan said. “They said nothing’s wrong and sent her on her way.”
Morgan had Zembower inspect that vehicle and test the air with a special meter.
Zembower said even after going through Ford’s prescribed fix, the real estate agent’s Explorer was riddled with holes—the result of Ford’s manufacturing process—where carbon monoxide could get in.
Morgan said other Explorer owners have approached his firm with similar complaints and that he’s investigating those as he continues to litigate the Jacksonville family’s case against Ford.
“When they find out about the long-term potentials of brain damage, of what they’re exposing their children to, they’re terrified. They’re upset,” he said.
The Daltons said Ford eventually took back their Explorer and returned their money, though they suspected they were simply a line in an actuarial table.
“Somebody [said] if enough people died, there’s a formula [Ford] follows,” said Krista Dalton. “I didn’t want to be the person or my family be the person that died. It’s ridiculous.”
Sutton contacted Ford to talk about the Daltons’ claims and others, which prompted a company spokesperson to say Ford makes safety its top priority. She asked customers to call 888-260-5575 if they believe they have a problem.
Zembower recommends Ford Explorer drivers purchase a carbon monoxide detector for their vehicle.
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