Tesla shares just 1% of blame for fatal crash that killed two teenagers, rules jury hears

A Florida jury 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 a 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 and his 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 that he was driving 116 miles per hour (186 km per hour) in a 30 mile per hour (48 km per hour) zone, and the most likely cause of the accident “was the loss of driver control as a result of excessive speed.

James 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 defective which “erupted into an uncontrollable and fatal fire” upon impact.

James also said Tesla removed a speed limiter without his permission. He had ordered the instrument installed to prevent his son from driving over 85 miles per hour (136 km per hour).

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.


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