CVN screenshot of defense attorney Dan Rodman delivering his closing argument
Santa Clara, CA - A California state court jury has returned a defense verdict in one of the first lawsuits to go to trial over carbon monoxide from exhaust gas supposedly leaking into the interior of Ford sport utility vehicles, and the full trial was recorded gavel-to-gavel by Courtroom View Network.
The Orange County Superior Court jury returned their verdict on October 17 in a trial that began with opening statements in mid-September. Plaintiff Brian McDowell, a former Newport Beach police officer, claimed carbon monoxide caused him to pass out and crash his Ford Explorer police vehicle into a tree in 2015.
McDowell’s attorneys told jurors the accident left him with a traumatic brain injury and injuries to his neck and back, and they suggested Ford could have detected and prevented the supposed defect with more rigorous testing, but Ford successfully argued McDowell passed out due to a seizure-like event, and that his injuries were exacerbated by not wearing a seatbelt.
The trial is believed to be among the first involving claims related to alleged carbon monoxide leaks in Ford Explorers. Unlimited on-demand access to the full trial, including all witness testimony and digital images of the exhibits and demonstratives shown the courtroom, is available with subscription to CVN’s trial video library, which also includes numerous automotive product liability cases among hundreds of other trials.
In a statement provided to CVN after the trial’s conclusion, a Ford spokesperson reiterated that both federal regulators and the company’s own internal testing confirmed the Explorer’s safety.
“We appreciate that the jury’s verdict is consistent with the findings by The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Ford that determined there was no unreasonable risk to motor vehicle safety,” Ford stated. “Ford’s extensive investigations found the Explorer is safe and any carbon monoxide exposure is well below the levels to which people are commonly exposed every day.”
Attorney Tom Antunovich of Bisnar Chase, who represents McDowell along with co-counsel Gavin Long, told CVN his team would consider a possible motion for a new trial and appeal and expressed skepticism that this outcome will influence future cases.
“There are several other law enforcement officer cases pending across the country alleging exhaust gas poisoning in Ford Explorer vehicles,” Antunovich said. "Each case has unique factual differences bearing on the issue of causation and we look forward to trying those cases."
Ford is represented by Daniel Rodman, Patrick Fowler and David Hansen of Snell & Wilmer LLP.
The trial took place before Judge William Claster.
The case is captioned Brian Lang McDowell, et al. v. Ford Motor Company, case number 30-2016-0086652-CU-PL-CXC, in the Superior Court of California in Orange County.
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