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From Products Liability Law Daily, October 31, 2018

Tesla sued over allegedly defective autopilot system

By Susan Engstrom

A driver who was injured when the autopilot feature of his 2017 Tesla Model S allegedly failed, causing him to collide with a stalled vehicle at 80 mph, has filed suit against the automaker in Florida state court. According to his complaint, which includes claims for strict liability and negligence, Tesla’s autopilot system cannot reliably detect stationary objects such as disabled cars or other roadway hazards, posing a high risk of collisions, injury, and death (Hudson v. Tesla, Inc., October 30, 2018).

On the day of the accident, the driver was travelling on the Florida Turnpike in his Model S with the autopilot feature engaged. He alleged that unbeknownst to him, he was rapidly approaching a disabled vehicle that had stalled in his lane of travel, but his autopilot system failed to detect it. "Suddenly, and without warning," his vehicle crashed into the disabled one and, as a result, he sustained severe, permanent injuries.

Allegations. The driver’s complaint asserts that Tesla designed, manufactured, produced, distributed, and sold the at-issue Model S and the autopilot system that was installed on it. The manufacturer allegedly had represented to the driver that the autopilot system could drive the vehicle safely at highway speeds with minimal input and oversight from a user. According to the driver, however, Tesla knew that its system did not work as promised but continued to promote and sell it to consumers at a substantial additional cost. The driver claimed to have relied on Tesla’s representations and, in doing so, suffered severe personal injuries when the system failed.

In his strict liability claim, the driver alleges that the vehicle and autopilot system were defective in their design, manufacture, and warning, and that their defective condition rendered them unreasonably dangerous for their intended or reasonably foreseeable use. This risk outweighed any real or perceived benefits, the complaint contends, adding that alternative designs were available at the relevant time that would have resulted in a safer and more useful product. According to the driver, the defective conditions of the Model S and its autopilot system actually and proximately caused his injuries and damage.

The driver also maintains that Tesla was negligent in breaching its duties of care to: (1) design, manufacture, produce, distribute, and sell the Model S and autopilot system in a condition that was not defective and unreasonably dangerous; (2) adequately test, inspect, and ensure the quality of these products prior to placing them into the stream of commerce; and (3) provide adequate warnings and instructions for consumers.

The complaint further alleges that Tesla breached the implied warranty of fitness for a particular purpose, made false statements and representations about the autopilot feature, disseminated misleading advertisements, and engaged in a deceptive or unfair trade practice. In addition to demanding a jury trial, the driver is seeking judgment against Tesla for all injuries, damages, attorney fees, costs, and interest available under controlling law.

The case is Filing No. 80052957.

Attorneys: T. Michael Morgan (Morgan & Morgan, PA) for Shawn Hudson.

Companies: Tesla, Inc.

MainStory: TopStory ComplaintNewsStory MotorVehiclesNews DesignManufacturingNews WarningsNews DamagesNews FloridaNews

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