The family’s 15-year-old son died after a Model 3 on autopilot plowed into the back of their pickup truck.
A California family has filed a lawsuit against Tesla, claiming that a Model 3 with “Autopilot” engaged collided with their pickup truck and killed their 15-year-old son, Jovani Maldonado.
KPIX5 reports that the lawsuit was filed in Alameda County Superior Court by Benjamin Maldonado and Adriana Garcia, both residents of San Lorenzo in California’s Bay Area. The complaint names as defendants Tesla as well as the Model 3’s driver, Romeo Lagman-Yalung.
Both KPIX5 and The New York Times note that the crash—which occurred scarcely four miles from a Tesla factory—was captured on video.
In a six-second clip provided by The Swanson Law Group to media, footage and electronic data from the Model 3 showed that the Tesla was traveling at 69 miles per hour, then very slightly sped up before the crash.
While the Maldonado’s pickup was changing lanes, the driver corrected and remained to the left. However, the Model 3 still made contact; the impact was so forceful that the pickup truck flipped, ejecting 15-year-old Jovani onto the road.
The teenager, writes KPIX5, died at the scene.
His family’s lawsuit now accuses Tesla of product liability, negligent product liability, motor vehicle negligence, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and wrongful death.
Most of the same non-product-liability charges are being levied against the driver, too.
“Tesla conferring to their customers a false sense of security that Autopilot has autonomous functionality or is otherwise safe in all traffic conditions, misleadingly promotes the functionality, safety, and autonomy of Autopilot,” the lawsuit states.
“On the one hand, it’s okay to make billions of dollars off a term like ‘Autopilot,’” said family attorney Ben Swanson. “But when it comes to someone dying as a result of that Autopilot, they switch gears and call it ‘cruise control.’”
Interestingly, a Tesla attorney suggested that both drivers were at-fault.
“Our vehicle did as instructed by the driver, detected your client’s car, and slowed in an attempt to mitigate the impact. The crash was due to the two drivers’ negligence,” Tesla attorney Ryan McCarthy wrote. “The driver is responsible for the safe operation of the car at all times. Autopilot is a driver assistance feature, it’s not ‘driving the car.’”
The New York Times notes that Tesla has repeatedly said that “Autopilot” is meant to assist drivers, rather than do the driving for them.
However, Autopilot does not penalize or warn drivers who are inattentive or distracted, so long as they occasionally touch the steering wheel.