Former Newport Beach officer files lawsuit against Ford over carbon monoxide in patrol cars

NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. (KABC) -- A former Newport Beach police officer is suing Ford over concerns about carbon monoxide leaking into Ford Explorers driven by law enforcement.

Brian McDowell said he became nauseous shortly after starting his patrol shift in 2015. He said hours later, he passed out behind the wheel, drifted onto the wrong side of the road, narrowly missed a head-on collision and crashed into a tree.

McDowell served in law enforcement for 12 years and said the injuries he suffered in the crash forced him to leave the job.

"I fractured my right orbital, had a traumatic brain injury, injured my neck, my back, dislocated my shoulder, lost part of my sense of taste," he said.

He filed the lawsuit against Ford. His attorney Brian Chase said other police officers have suffered injuries after carbon monoxide leaked into the cabins of their Ford Explorers.

The Austin Police Department pulled their fleet over those concerns.

"When the vehicles are being driven under certain circumstances, the air pressure decreases inside the vehicle, compared to outside, and then it wants to suck in these exhaust fumes," Chase said.

McDowell was responding to a collision before he lost consciousness and crashed.

"You go from being completely independent to being completely dependent, being in a neck brace for three months, being loaded up on medications and basically not being able to pull my weight at home. Just doing basic household duties with a pregnant wife at the time, too, and also having a 2-year-old at home," McDowell said.

Ford said its investigation into the issue reported by police departments is ongoing, adding it discovered holes and spaces in the back of some patrol vehicles.

The motor company said equipment was installed after leaving its factory, and the company said it will pay for repairs.

The Newport Beach Police Department installed carbon monoxide detectors inside the vehicles as a precaution. Ford also said it will continue working with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on the investigation.

The company also said owners of domestic Ford Explorers should not be concerned, but if anyone is worried, they can take their car into a local dealership.
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