Tesla, Musk Knew About Autopilot Defect, Judge Finds
Updated: Jan 5
A judge in Florida has found "reasonable evidence" that Tesla CEO Elon Musk and other managers were aware of a defective Autopilot system in the company's vehicles but still allowed them to be driven unsafely.
The ruling allows the plaintiff in a lawsuit over a fatal crash to proceed to trial and seek punitive damages against Tesla for intentional misconduct and gross negligence.
The judge's summary of the evidence suggests inconsistencies between what Tesla knew internally and what it was saying in its marketing. The case is seen as a setback for Tesla, which previously won two product liability trials in California related to Autopilot.
The lawsuit stems from a 2019 crash in Florida where a Tesla Model 3 drove under the trailer of a big rig truck, resulting in the death of the vehicle's owner. The judge found evidence that Tesla engaged in a marketing strategy that portrayed its products as autonomous and that Musk's public statements about the technology had a significant impact on consumers' beliefs about the capabilities of the vehicles. The judge also noted that Tesla's warnings in its manuals and agreements were inadequate.
Legal experts believe that this ruling opens the door for a public trial that could potentially result in a verdict with punitive damages against Tesla. The judge's decision to allow the case to proceed is based on the belief that there is enough evidence to suggest that Tesla and its CEO were aware of the Autopilot system's failure to detect cross traffic, which was similar to a previous fatal crash in 2016.
Tesla has not yet commented on the ruling. The trial, which was originally scheduled for October, has been delayed and has not been rescheduled.
A judge in Florida has found evidence that Tesla and Elon Musk knew about a defective Autopilot system in the company's vehicles.
The ruling allows the plaintiff in a lawsuit over a fatal crash to proceed to trial and seek punitive damages against Tesla.
The judge's summary of the evidence suggests inconsistencies between Tesla's internal knowledge and its marketing claims.