Lawsuit: Ford Explorers may be making hundreds of owners sick

The lawsuit claims poisonous exhaust fumes can leak inside the SUV.

The 2011 Ford Explorer is driven past Soldier Field after its unveiling, Monday, July 26, 2010, in Chicago. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)

DETROIT, MI (WCMH) — A lawsuit filed by a California police officer claims a defect in Ford Explorers can leak poisonous gasses into the SUV.

NBC affiliate WDIV reports that more than 400 people have filed complaints with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

In the lawsuit, Newport Beach, California police officer Brian McDowell claims he suffered a traumatic brain injury after he passed out while driving a Ford Explorer. McDowell’s lawyer told WDIV that McDowell was responding to a call when he felt sick and blacked out. He said he didn’t remember anything else until he was cut out of the car.

“Here’s a deadly weapon being driven by nobody because they have carbon monoxide poisoning,” the attorney said.

The attorney claims Ford Explorers from model years 2011 through 2015 are affected.

According to an investigation notice from the NTSB, operating the vehicle at full throttle while climbing steep grades or getting onto the freeway or using the air conditioner in recirculation mode contributed to an exhaust smell in the car.

Ford released the following statement to WDIV:

We take the safety of our customers very seriously and will cooperate with NHTSA on this investigation, as we always do. In rare circumstances, there have been instances where customers detected an exhaust odor in Explorers. While it poses no safety risk, customers can and are encouraged to contact their local Ford dealer to address any concerns.

Retired Army vet Ron Booth tells CBS News that he has taken his explorer into the shop several times for repairs, but nothing has solved the problem. He now drives with a carbon monoxide detector in his car as a precaution.

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