According to reports carried by online sources such as the Washington Post and Forbes, Tesla Motors has been hit with a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the family of a man who died following a March 2018 accident in Mountain View, California.
Citing a copy of the lawsuit that it obtained yesterday (April 30th) afternoon, San Francisco ABC affiliate KGO-TV is reporting that the family of Apple engineer Walter Huang is alleging that "...the Tesla Model X was defective in its design, in that the passenger protection systems of the vehicle would not, could not, and did not perform in a manner as safely as an ordinary consumer would expect." [Emphasis added]
Based on news reports from the time of Huang’s death, the following is a summary of the circumstances allegedly surrounding the accident that claimed his life on the morning of March 23rd, 2018.
On the morning of the accident, 38-year-old Walter Huang was driving his Tesla Model X at “freeway speeds” on the “split” junction of the 101 Freeway and California Highway 85 when he suddenly lost control of his vehicle. The vehicle, which was later determined to have been operating in its “Autonomous” mode when the accident occurred, first struck a median barrier and it was this impact that caused the vehicle’s lithium ion electric batteries to rupture and burst into flames. Following the first impact, Huong’s vehicle landed in the second-most left-hand lane of the Southbound 101 where it was subsequently struck by two additional southbound vehicles. Huong was airlifted from the accident scene to Stanford University Hospital, where he died from his injuries (including burns and blunt force trauma) about 4 hours later.
According to KGO-TV’s Dan Noyes, who has reported extensively on Huang’s death and other Tesla safety-related issues, Tesla almost immediately went into “damage control mode” over the possibility that its highly-touted “Autopilot” autonomous vehicle software could have contributed to, much less caused, Huang’s accident. Among the subjects of Noyes’ reports are:
An April 2, 2018 report that suggested “friction” between the NTSB and Tesla over the latter’s statements concerning its “Autopilot’s” use by Huang in the minutes prior to the accident.
An April 10, 2018 report on another allegation by Tesla that it was Huang’s lack of familiarity with his vehicle’s “Autopilot” that probably caused the accident. Tesla’s allegation was apparently intended to counter statements made by Huang’s widow, who had publicly stated that her husband had previously mentioned to her that his vehicle had suddenly changed both its speed and its direction of travel in the past at the same location where the accident occurred.
An April 13, 2018 report on Tesla founder and then-CEO Elon Musk’s allegations that Huang himself was probably responsible for his own fatal accident.
A June 7, 2018 report on the preliminary findings of a National Transportation Safety Board investigation that indicated Huang’s vehicle had “suddenly accelerated” on its own in the seconds prior to its initial impact with the median divider.
Please take us at our word that you will probably find the above-listed reports to be “disturbing!”
Industry experts point out that the Huang lawsuit is only the latest legal headache for Tesla in that it comes within months of reports from China that a Tesla vehicle suddenly accelerated before crashing into a river near Shanghai and another Chinese report that another Tesla’s batteries apparently exploded in a parking garage. When you also consider Tesla founder Elon Musk’s well-publicized troubles with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Tesla stockholders could find troubled waters ahead rather than the smooth sailing promised by Tesla and its crew of well-compensated corporate apologists.