A WOMAN claims she suffered chronic carbon monoxide poisoning due to an alleged oil leak in her new €45,000 Mini car, the High Court heard.
Solicitor Helen Noble, a mother of two, is suing for alleged injuries arising out of her use of the Mini Clubman.
She used the car, bought for €45,362 under a hire purchase agreement, for her three-hour commute from her Wicklow home to work in Dublin city.
She told the court yesterday she suffered headaches, dizzy spells, nausea, slurred speech and her eyelashes and hair fell out over a three-year period during which she used the car.
"It was the most harrowing horrible experience of my life. I missed out on a couple of years my childrens' lives." she said
Ms Noble (42) from Killballyowen, Aughrim, Co Wicklow, has sued Motor Import Ltd, trading as Frank Keane (Naas Road) Dublin, as well as Mini's parent company, BMW AG, of Munich, Germany, and Permanent TSB which handled the hire-purchase agreement.
The defendants deny any liability.
In her action, Ms Noble claims she was repeatedly subjected to noxious gases and alleged carbon monoxide poisoning.
Opening the case, Jim O'Callaghan SC said in July 2011 Ms Noble's husband saw a significant collection of black soot on the engine. At a garage they were told the turbo charger was leaking.
It is contended Ms Noble was exposed to untreated diesel fumes as the fumes had not gone through the catalytic converter, counsel said.
Documents in the case would show it emerged there had been complaints within the EU related to that model of car including leaking from the turbo charger and a build-up of soot on the engine as well as leaks in to the passenger compartment, counsel said.
In evidence Ms Noble, who specialises in maritime law, said after using the car for a time, she noticed she was a lot more tired.
She did not have "the same get up and go" and increasingly would fall asleep once she got home. Over 2008 and 2009, her eyelashes began to fall out.
After becoming extremely unwell in November 2009, she attended hospital with dizziness and other symptoms. She was out of work for a while in March 2011 and referred for gynaecological assessment.
She underwent a hysteroscopy, which meant she could have no more children. She said after she he returned to work, she had the same symptoms as before.
After her husband noticed the build up of soot on the engine, and they were told there was a leak from the turbo charger, she said she contacted her GP.
The GP believed the inhalation of raw diesel fumes could have caused all of her symptoms she said. "It was the most sickening moment. I now knew I was not going bonkers," she said.
Oonah McCrann SC for the defendants said engineering evidence would show the only gas entering the passenger compartment was oxygen, and that if carbon monoxide was entering as claimed, there would be a smell of diesel fumes.The case continues before Mr Justice Michael White.