Vehicle defects can result in serious – and deadly – injuries to consumers. In a recent example, at least three police officers in Massachusetts were hospitalized after being exposed to dangerous levels of carbon monoxide; and all as the result of a possible manufacturer defect that allows the deadly gas to gather inside of their police-issued Ford vehicles. The exact number of police officers who have experienced carbon monoxide poisoning in Ford vehicles is currently unknown, but numerous reports have surfaced across the country.
Although the issue continues to be investigated, the Massachusetts police department has alleged that elevated levels of carbon monoxide were found both inside the Ford Interceptor sport utility vehicles (SUVs), as well as in the bloodstreams of the officers who fell ill and required medical treatment after being exposed. In at least one instance, an officer experienced such severe carbon monoxide poisoning while inside his vehicle that he passed out and rear-ended another automobile.
There are even more cases of carbon monoxide poisoning in Ford Interceptor SUVs that are happening across the country. In Louisiana, a police officer recently blacked out while behind the wheel and subsequently was in a car crash. When she was hospitalized, doctors diagnosed her with carbon monoxide poisoning. Unsurprisingly, the officer had been driving in her police-issued Ford Interceptor SUV. In this case, the officer is pursuing a lawsuit against the automobile manufacturer. She claims that the manufacturer is aware of the problem and should immediately be required to remedy it.
According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), carbon monoxide becomes highly dangerous to humans when it reaches a certain level (15 parts per million in eight hours or 22 parts per million in one hour). When the Massachusetts police department conducted testing on the affected vehicles and police officers, levels as high as 39-40 parts per million were found present. Since the tests were done after the officers had been exposed to the chemical, one can assume levels were most likely even higher while the officers were still inside their vehicles.
Police departments in different states who rely on the same vehicles for their officers have pulled hundreds from use as a precautionary measure. Ford is attempting to work with the police departments and investigate the issue in order to ensure that the vehicles are safe for officers to use. However, police departments are continuing to place Ford Interceptor SUVs out of commission in order to protect the wellbeing and safety of police officers, as well as other Americans on the roadways.
Carbon monoxide is dangerous to humans for two main reasons. Because it is odorless it is extremely difficult to detect before a person is exposed to levels high enough to cause poisoning. Carbon monoxide also prevents a person from breathing in sufficient amounts of oxygen, which leads to oxygen deprivation and eventually suffocation. Some common symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include nausea, vomiting, dizziness, light-headedness, dull headache, shortness of breath, blurred vision, confusion, as well as loss of consciousness.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that an average of 20,000 people go to emergency rooms every year for suspected carbon monoxide poisoning, 4,000 are hospitalized and approximately 400 die. Because symptoms can be extremely subtle, carbon monoxide poisoning can be a culprit behind cases of accidental death.
This is by no means the first time that Ford has been required to investigate the safety of its vehicles or recall them because of defects. Although the manufacturer is claiming that police officers may be exposed to carbon monoxide in vehicles because of alterations that police departments have made themselves – such as installing emergency equipment, like lights – they have also acknowledged reports of cracked exhaust manifolds. Exhaust fumes carry carbon monoxide, but Ford continues to claim that cracked exhaust manifolds are in no way related to the police officers that are being exposed to deadly fumes inside their vehicles.
Determining the exact cause of carbon monoxide poisoning in the men and women who are sworn to protect the lives of others needs to remain a priority so that their safety does not continue to be compromised and their lives put at risk. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is continuing to investigate the matter and Ford has been conducting repairs on various police vehicles in recent months.
If you or a loved one has been exposed to carbon monoxide as a result of a vehicle defect, please contact Galfand Berger. We are happy to answer your questions and review your case for free. With offices located in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Reading and Lancaster, our product liability lawyers in Philadelphia serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey. To schedule a consultation, call us at 800-222-8792 or complete our online contact form.