San Francisco: A US judge has ruled that there is “reasonable evidence” that Tesla and its CEO Elon Musk knew its electric cars had “defective Autopilot systems” but still allowed the EVs to be driven in areas “not safe for that technology”.
The Florida lawsuit was filed after a 2019 crash in Miami when Stephen Banner’s Model 3 drove under the trailer of an 18-wheeler truck that had turned onto the road, cutting off the Tesla’s roof and killing Banner.
Judge Scott’s finding that Tesla’s top management knew of the defects could also mean Musk would have to testify, reports TechCrunch.
Tesla marketed the products as autonomous and Musk’s public statements about Autopilot “had a significant effect on the belief about the capabilities of the products,” according to the ruling.
The ruling means the family of a man who died in a collision while his Tesla’s Autopilot was engaged “can go to trial and seek punitive damages from Tesla for intentional misconduct and gross negligence”.
In August, a grieving widow sued Tesla in the US after her husband died in a 2020 crash involving a Model 3 vehicle.
Jyung Woo Hahn, 46, died on March 12, 2022, when his Tesla malfunctioned and collided with a tree and burst into flames in New York.
He allegedly survived the initial crash but was trapped in the burning vehicle.
The plaintiff Jiyoung Yoon sued Tesla in the US District Court, Southern District of New York, for its role in designing, manufacturing, distributing, and selling the vehicle “in its defective and unreasonably dangerous condition and for causing Hahn’s horrific injuries, suffering, and death”.
Last month, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) probed Musk-run Tesla for the advertised range of its TVs and personal decisions.
The electric car-maker disclosed in a US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filing that the Justice department issued subpoenas related to perks, vehicle range and personal decisions.
Tesla has also been pulled up by the US road safety regulators to provide extensive data about its driver assistance and driver monitoring systems, known as ‘Elon mode’.