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Lawsuit claims Ford Explorers can leak poisonous gases inside SUV

More than 400 people have filed complaints

DETROIT – A lawsuit against Ford Motor Co. claims a defect in Ford Explorers can leak poisonous gases inside the SUV.

More than 400 people have filed complaints with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, alleging the fumes made them sick.

In one case, the consequences could have been deadly, as a Newport Beach police officer suffered a traumatic brain injury after he passed out while driving.

Brian McDowell's lawyer said McDowell was heading to a call when he started feeling sick and blacked out. The next thing he remembers is being cut out of the Explorer.

McDowell's colleague was inside a squad car behind the Explorer and recorded the moments leading up to the crash.

"A fraction of a second sooner, he would've had a head-on collision," McDowell's attorney said.

The dashcam video shows McDowell losing control of his Explorer after he said he started feeling nauseous and he passed out, causing the SUV to swerve across lanes of traffic. The squad car ended up wrapped around a tree.

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

McDowell's attorney claims a defect in the exhaust system can cause poisonous fumes to seep into the Explorer.

"The defect is in every Explorer on the road," he said.

McDowell suffered a traumatic brain injury in the crash.

"They ran a battery of tests, nothing wrong," McDowell's attorney said. "Only thing that makes sense is that he got carbon monoxide poisoning from this event."

The 36-year-old police officer has been on the force for five years, but hasn't been on active duty since the crash, which happened in 2015.

"His dream of being a cop could be reduced to a desk job," McDowell's attorney said.

McDowell is suing Ford Motor Co. for the incident. His attorney said Explorers from 2011 to 2015 are affected.

"My advice is sell the car," he said. "Don't try to get it fixed, because there is no fix for this."

Ford released the following statement:

"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."

The attorney said he will leave a financial decision to a jury.

There hasn't been a recall of Ford Explorers.

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