Los Angeles, CA: A consumer fraud class action lawsuit has been filed in Florida by Ford Explorer owners and lessors alleging the automaker mislead consumers about a defect in the vehicles' exhaust system that exposes passengers to dangerous levels of carbon monoxide.
Filed by lead plaintiff Angela Sanchez-Knutson, the complaint alleges that when the air conditioning is on in the Ford Motor Co. sport utility vehicle, the exhaust leaks into the passenger cabin of the cars. This poses a health risk to those in the cars and a safety risk to people on the road.
Sanchez-Knutson further claims that she and her daughter suffer from chronic headaches as a result of exposure to dangerous levels of carbon monoxide in her 2013 Ford Explorer. She alleges she took the car to the local dealership for repair numerous times because of a sulfuric smell. However, at no point in time was she informed that the odor actually signified exposure to the gas.
An internal technical service bulletin distributed by Ford to its dealerships showed that the automaker was aware that certain Explorer models' exhaust systems were leaking into the cabins of the cars when the air conditioning was turned on, the complaint states.
The bulletin provided dealerships with instructions on how handle the smell in the vehicles but did not specify that carbon monoxide was seeping into the cabins or provide any remedies to protect consumers from the risk of exposure, according to the lawsuit.
"Ford knew or should have known that the 2011 through 2013 model year Ford Explorers were dangerous and defective such that drivers and passengers of those vehicles may be exposed to carbon monoxide and other dangerous gases while the vehicles are in operation," the complaint states.
The complaint alleges Ford violated the vehicles' express and limited warranties, since the contracts guaranteed that the vehicles were defect-free. All of the affected vehicles are still under warranty with the company, the lawsuit states.
As a result of filing the lawsuit, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced that it is looking into the exhaust allegations. The agency said it was aware of complaints involving the vehicles but that it had not initiated a formal investigation.
The lawsuit seeks to certify a class of all consumers in Florida who purchased or leased the 2011 to 2013 Explorer models. The suit is Sanchez-Knutson v. Ford Motor Company, case number 0:14-cv-61344, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.
The lead plaintiff is represented by Michael A. Hersch, Jordan M. Lewis and John J. Uustal of Kelley Uustal PLC.