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Faulty Ford vehicle repair exposed family to toxic gas for months, lawsuit alleges

It's winter. Turn on your car heater and what you expect is hot air. A lawsuit filed by an Ottawa man claims carbon monoxide also flowed into his SUV after faulty repairs caused the fan to blow high levels of the toxic gas into the vehicle - making him and his family sick.

Dealership denies causing damage, tells Go Public it has tried to resolve things with Ottawa family

Lawsuit filed by Ottawa man alleges carbon monoxide flowed into SUV after faulty repairs were made at a Ford dealership, making him and his family sick 2:02

An Ottawa man claims carbon monoxide flowed into his SUV after faulty repairs were made at a Ford dealership, causing him and his family to get sick, according to a lawsuit filed in Ontario.

"[We'd get] headaches, nausea, maybe a bit of dizziness. There were two occasions I was bedridden for a whole day," Greg White told Go Public.  

According to a statement of claim filed in May 2015 in Ottawa Small Claims Court by White and his wife Eleanor, their 2013 Ford Escape started stalling in September 2014. He took it back to the dealership where he purchased the vehicle.

Greg White says he and his family members experienced headaches, nausea and dizziness from carbon monoxide exposure. (CBC)

Repairs were done at Lincoln Heights Ford in Ottawa and the SUV was returned to the family. That's when White said he and his family started feeling sick.

According to the claim, the first sign of that something was wrong with the vehicle came a month later. 
White said he asked his teenage daughter to start the SUV on a cold winter morning. She turned on the heat — the fan on high — and waited for her dad to drive her to school.

"I was delayed for about 10 minutes and when I came out to the car and opened the door, I noticed a strong odour of exhaust inside the car," White told Go Public.

White takes a look under the hood of the vehicle he claims exposed him and his family to carbon monoxide fumes. (CBC)

He said he took the SUV back to the dealership. Mechanics checked the vehicle several times, and couldn't find a  problem. 

"We continued to drive the car [for two more weeks] and I kept experiencing sickness. I brought the car back to them and again complained something wasn't right." 

Mechanics checked the vehicle again and couldn't find the problem. 

He explains in the statement of claim that he bought a portable carbon monoxide detector online and performed his own tests. He said it "detected dangerously high levels of CO reaching up to 250 parts per million."

"Right away, within a minute or two, I realized there was a serious leak inside the cab of the vehicle," he said. 

Independent mechanic finds leak

According to court documents, after Lincoln Heights Ford couldn't find a problem, White took the SUV to an independent mechanic in Ottawa. King's Automotive found exhaust system components were misaligned and leaking.

Months later, while the SUV was at another Ford dealership, Sterling Ford, for an unrelated problem, another leak was found in a damaged exhaust hose. He said it took nine months to resolve the issues. 

In the statement of claim filed with the court, White claims the two separate exhaust leaks were the result of poor workmanship by Lincoln Heights Ford. He said the exhaust fumes were so severe the family had to drive with the windows down since it was the only vehicle they had.

In the lawsuit filed against Lincoln Heights Ford and Ford of Canada, he and his wife are seeking $25,000 in compensation for the repairs and loss of value of the vehicle and for what he describes as the toll on the family's health. 

Dealership responds

Go Public put White's allegations to Les Bell, the owner of Lincoln Heights Ford.

In an email, he said it "would be inappropriate to comment on many of the issues that are raised in your email," because the case is before the courts.

The Ford dealership where Greg and Eleanor White bought their SUV and where they had repairs done that they believe were faulty. (CBC )

According to the dealership's statement of defence filed in court, it denies causing any damage, claiming if there were problems, they were either caused by the Whites or by the couple's failure to maintain their vehicle.

Bell told Go Public the dealership made many attempts to resolve things with the Whites.

"From the initial complaint that was raised by the plaintiffs, we have tried to resolve this matter directly with the plaintiffs and their counsel," Bell said. "We have made several very reasonable offers to the plaintiffs." 

He said the dealership offered to inspect the vehicle and correct any "alleged deficiencies" at no cost to the plaintiffs, and pay third-party garage charges to correct them but the Whites refused the offer.

"For the reasons mentioned above, we cannot elaborate on the details of these offers but the plaintiffs are not interested in resolving this matter. They are not negotiating in good faith, have made repeated defamatory comments, and have continually threatened to go to the media if we do not accept their offers," Bell told Go Public.

Bell said those offers included helping the Whites purchase a 2015 Ford Escape, with a substantial financial contribution from the dealership. In court documents, White said the dealership suggested he trade in his 2013 Ford Escape for a  new one, but he refused because he wasn't happy with the deal offered. 

Go Public also put the issue to Ford Canada. It said it won't comment while the case is before the courts. In its statement of defence, the company denies responsibility for damages noting Lincoln Heights Ford is an independent authorized dealer, not an agent of Ford Canada.

The allegations contained in the statement of claim have not been tested in court. A settlement conference was held in October, but no deal was reached. 

CO dangerous over time: doctor

While the facts of the Whites' case will be settled in court, Dr. Ken LeDez of Memorial University in St. John's, said those exposed to high levels of CO could face health problems in the future that aren't obvious right away.

LeDez has 30 years of experience treating people who suffer serious cases of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Dr. Ken LeDez, an expert on carbon monoxide poisoning, says that long-term exposure can cause neurological damage. (CBC)

"Toxic effects from carbon monoxide could include difficulty thinking, slowed reaction, nausea, vomiting, headache — that could cause an immediate accident. If you travel for a longer period, it's possible the level could be going much higher even to the point of being lethal," he said. 

"Longer term, there are other types of neurological brain damage that can occur. You can get symptoms like Parkinson's disease, you can get effects on your memory functions, your short-term memory in particular. It can even be so severe it can be difficult to function to take care of yourself."

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About the Author

Rosa Marchitelli


Rosa Marchitelli is a national award winner for her investigative work. As co-host of the CBC news segment Go Public, she has a reputation for asking tough questions and holding companies and individuals to account. Rosa's work is seen across CBC News platforms.


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