Texas cop sues Ford, dealership alleging carbon monoxide poisoning

The incident has caused Sgt. Zachary LaHood to suffer "severe neurological injuries" which have required him to continue to seek medical care


By Ali Linan
Austin American-Statesman

AUSTIN, Texas —  An Austin police officer is suing Ford Motor Company and Leif Johnson Ford for more than $1 million in damages, claiming he was poisoned by carbon monoxide while driving his patrol car.

According to the lawsuit, police Sgt. Zachary T. LaHood was driving in a marked police vehicle on March 18 around 1:30 a.m. when he began to feel nauseous, light-headed, and got headaches and blurred vision.

LaHood also lost consciousness while driving the car, which almost caused him to collide with an oncoming bus, the lawsuit said.

LaHood then pulled into a parking lot where he called for help, the lawsuit said. Austin police officers arrived and an ambulance took LaHood to a nearby hospital, where he was diagnosed with carbon monoxide poisoning, the lawsuit said.

The patrol car LaHood was driving was a 2011 Ford Explorer, the lawsuit said. After receiving complaints in 2011 and 2012, Ford formally acknowledged potential issues with exhaust fumes in the car, but only informed authorized Ford dealers, the lawsuit said.

Unnamed companies, who are also being sued, serviced the vehicle in an “attempt to remedy the defects,” but failed as the solutions given to them by Ford did not work, the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit also claims that at the time the vehicle was sold, safer alternative designs could have “prevented or significantly reduced” the risk of injury without impairing the car’s ability to work.

The issues were especially dangerous to LaHood and police vehicles because patrol cars typically continuously run throughout a shift, the lawsuit said.

The incident has caused LaHood to suffer “severe neurological injuries” which have required him to continue to seek medical care, the lawsuit said. LaHood and his wife, Kelly, are seeking damages of more than $1 million for medical expenses, lost income, and physical and mental pain, the lawsuit said.

The American-Statesman reached out to Ford Motor Co. and Leif Johnson Ford for comment but they had not responded by press time.

UPDATE: 

In a statement to KHOU, Ford Motor Company said: 

"We take the safety of our customers very seriously. In rare circumstances, there have been instances where customers detected an exhaust odor in Explorers and Police Interceptor Utilities. We have thoroughly investigated reports of exhaust odor and do not believe this odor condition poses a safety risk. If customers have a concern with their vehicles, they are encouraged to contact their local Ford dealership. In the case of Police Interceptors, odors can be caused by non-Ford modifications or repairs that were not properly sealed."

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©2017 Austin American-Statesman, Texas

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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