Tesla Settles Lawsuit Over Fatal Crash, Avoids California Trial

Tesla Settles Lawsuit Over Fatal Crash, Avoids California Trial

Tesla Inc. has settled a lawsuit regarding the death of a Model S passenger in a tragic 2016 crash. This marks the second time in two months that the electric vehicle manufacturer has evaded a jury trial in California concerning a fatal accident.

The settlement, finalized on May 24, follows another confidential agreement in April. That case involved a high-profile crash where an Apple Inc. engineer died in 2018. The engineer’s Model X, reportedly using Autopilot, veered off the highway and collided with a roadside barrier at around 71 miles per hour.

While Tesla has faced considerable scrutiny from regulatory bodies and legal battles over alleged issues with its Autopilot system, the 2016 crash in downtown Indianapolis raised different concerns. The plaintiffs argued that the driver, Casey Speckman, lost control of the 2015 Model S when it unexpectedly accelerated, hit a tree, and burst into flames. Kevin McCarthy, Speckman’s boss and passenger, survived the initial impact but succumbed to the fire ignited by a battery explosion. The lawsuit accused Tesla of the car’s tendency to catch fire and a defective door latch system that trapped McCarthy inside the vehicle.

Tesla denied any fault, asserting that the car’s data event recorder indicated Speckman kept her foot on the accelerator and did not attempt to brake before the crash. Additionally, police reports revealed Speckman had a blood alcohol level more than twice the legal limit.

In February 2023, Tesla failed to get the Speckman family’s lawsuit dismissed, with the judge ruling that the plaintiffs had sufficient evidence to challenge Tesla’s account. A confidential settlement was reached with Speckman’s family less than two months later.

The trial for McCarthy’s family was set to begin on June 3. The settlement reached on May 24 was described as “conditional,” but no further details were provided. Attorneys for both Tesla and the McCarthy family did not immediately comment on the settlement.

In previous cases involving Autopilot, Tesla has successfully defended itself in California, with juries concluding that the accidents were due to driver error rather than the company’s technology. These outcomes, along with more trials scheduled in California and Florida, stand in contrast to Tesla co-founder and CEO Elon Musk’s claims that Teslas are the safest cars ever made.

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