But the automaker might still have to pay out big…
A lawsuit against Tesla for the death of an 18-year-old man in Florida resulted in a federal jury finding the automaker 1% responsible. The trial, which many in the industry followed closely for what it might mean for future lawsuits, has now made national news. It was what lawyers say is the first jury trial against Tesla involving its vehicles. That same jury found the 18-year-old and his father 99% responsible for the crash.
Watch the latest Motorious Podcast here.
The Tesla Model S slammed into a concrete wall, then caught on fire in a horrific accident on May 8, 2018. Barrett Riley died along with a passenger, while another passenger survived. While the deceased man’s parents’ attorneys argued a defect in the car’s batteries contributed to the fire, the judge dismissed the claim before the end of the trial.
An important detail about the crash was revealed during the trial. Someone switched off the Tesla’s speed limiter. Barrett Riley reportedly was going 116 mph, passing another vehicle through a curve where the posted speed limit was 25 mph. While Riley’s parents claimed a Tesla technician disabled the speed limiter device they requested be installed, but said nothing to them about it. That device kept the Model S from going over 85 mph.
Tesla’s attorneys argued Barrett Riley’s reckless behavior behind the wheel caused the crash. They brought up the fact the 18-year-old received a speeding ticket for going 112 mph in March of 2018, arguing they should have taken away the car keys as a result instead of simply installing a speed limiter. Even worse, Tesla’s attorneys said Barrett tricked the Tesla technician into disabling the speed limiter.
In the end, the jury only found Tesla 1% at fault for the crash. They found Barrett Riley 90% negligent as the driver and his father James Riley 9% negligent but concluded his mother Jenny Riley wasn’t negligent in her son’s death. As a result, the jury concluded James and Jenny Riley suffered $4.5 million and $6 million in damages, respectively. Now it’s up to the judge to either maintain those amounts or reduce them.
Automakers being sued over crashes isn’t anything new. For example, back in March of this year, the Arizona Supreme Court decided Jeep could be sued over the death of a girl after a jeep ran into the back of her mother’s Lexus. The basis of the legal claim was that Jeep hadn’t installed automatic emergency braking in the vehicle.
Images via Tesla