What initially seemed like only a disgruntled few has grown into over 650,000 complaints to date against the makers of the 2011-2017 Ford Explorers. The claims are that there is a potential for deadly exhaust leaks and that hundreds of thousands of consumers have been subject to injury due to the faulty design of the Ford Explorer.
Consumers from many walks of life have described what they call “exhaust fumes” coming not from the exterior, but the cabin of their vehicle, and they are questioning what the exposure might be doing to passengers. Anyone who has ever been in a car realizes that being inside one provides very limited space, and if there is something harmful in the air, then everyone is affected to some extent.
To blame, evidently, is the Explorer’s air conditioner and the way that it circulates air while the driver presses the gas pedal. While accelerating, drivers and passengers alike have alleged that there is a very familiar “rotten egg” or “sulfur” smell that permeates the interior. According to experts who have investigated the complaints against the Ford company, the smell has been linked to an unsealed seam in the rear of the SUV.
Over 150 owners have filed lawsuits in court and with the NHTSA, which first launched the investigation to substantiate the claims that exhaust was being leaked into the cabin of the car. Obviously, the biggest concern is the potential exposure of vehicle occupants to carbon monoxide.
The original 150 claims have blossomed into over 450,000, some involving the 2016 models, while others are alleging that 2017 models are also affected. The additional claims have not been a part of the NHTSA’s original investigation into the exhaust allegations.
Ford has been aware of the exhaust issues since as early as 2012. At that point there is a record of the automaker providing bulletins to the dealers that there may, in fact, have been an exhaust problem. In 2015, it was escalated when a Ford Motor representative called it a “design issue,” admitting that there was some truth to the claims being made. The company, however, has not made any attempt to have a formal recall to fix the exhaust problem or to address the concerns of the Ford Explorer owners.
The claims made against the automaker by a personal injury houston attorney state, that while in the vehicle, passengers and drivers have experienced everything from passing out and suddenly crashing into a tree, to injuries such as bronchitis, burning eyes, headaches and childhood breathing issues. In other cars, the exhaust system vents harmful gases such as acrolein benzene, carbon monoxide, acetaldehyde and formaldehyde outside of the car. According to investigators, the defective Ford Explorer was improperly designed to have the vents go directly into the car’s interior.
Carbon monoxide has been linked to many ill health effects, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and cardiovascular disease. If exposure is concentrated enough, it can lead to death. There has not been any conclusive evidence that anyone has been injured due to the defect in the design, which makes a personal injury suit difficult to initiate. But in August of 2016, Ford did agree to settle a class-action suit in Florida. Maybe this is an admission of negligence; many more claims appear to be pending.
Although many factors decide a verdict in a personal injury case including the amount of injury sustained, negligence is the main factor. If Explorer owners can conclusively show that they were exposed to harmful gases as a result of the way that the car was constructed, it might just be enough to charge Ford with personal injury suits, or at a minimum, a massive and expensive recall.
Until there is evidence that it is causing anyone harmful exposure, the claims will probably fall by the wayside. But if Ford settles out of court many more times, then they will be inadvertently admitting guilt and could be opening themselves up for some severe and serious compensatory payoffs at the very least.