Jury: Tesla only 1% to blame for teenage driver’s spirited crash

MIAMI (AP) — A jury in Florida has found Tesla just 1% negligent in a violent crash that killed two teenagers, for disabling a speed limiter on the electric car.

Tuesday’s verdict placed 90% of the blame on the driver, Barrett Riley, and 9% on his father, James Riley, who filed the lawsuit against Tesla.

This is the first known case involving a Tesla accident that has gone to trial, said Michael Brooks, acting executive director of the Center for Auto Safety.

Barrett Riley and her friend Edgar Monserrat Martinez were about to graduate from their South Florida private school when they died in the May 2018 crash near Fort Lauderdale Beach. A rear passenger was ejected and survived.

The National Transportation Safety Board determined he was traveling at 116 mph (186 km/h) in a 30 mph (48 km/h) zone, and the most likely cause of the accident “was the driver’s loss of control as a result of excessive speed “.

James Riley claimed the crash was “entirely survivable” and it was the ensuing fire that killed the teens, but the judge rejected his lawsuit’s claim that Tesla engineered lithium-ion batteries. ions that “erupted into an uncontrollable and fatal fire” upon impact.

Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk speaks to the media next to his Model S during a press conference in 2016.

South China Morning Post via Getty Images

James Riley also said that Tesla removed a speed limiter without his permission. He had the instrument installed to prevent his son from driving over 85 mph (136 km/h).

An investigation revealed that about a month before the accident, the teenager had asked employees of the Tesla dealership in Dania Beach to return the car to normal operating mode while it was being serviced.

Tesla denied being negligent in disabling the speed limiter. The company argued that the teenager’s parents were negligent in allowing him to drive the vehicle “while they were aware of his history of speeding and reckless driving”, according to the instructions of the judge to the jury.

Brooks of the Center for Auto Safety said other lawsuits are pending against Tesla involving the vehicle’s Autopilot and full self-driving systems.

Jurors have recommended $6 million be awarded to the teen’s mother, Jenny Riley, for pain and suffering, and $4.5 million to the father, the newspaper reported.

But the apportionment of liability means Tesla will only be liable for $105,000, Curt Miner, an attorney representing James Riley, told the South Florida SunSentinel. He did not return an email requesting information about the distribution of the jury prize.


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