You may remember, back in May 2018, two teenagers were killed after the driver crashed a Tesla Model S into a concrete wall while traveling at 116 mph. The car immediately caught fire, and another person who was in the car sustained injuries.
Not long after the deadly accident occurred, Tesla pushed out an over-the-air software update with a speed-limiting feature dedicated to the teen driver of the Model S, Barrett Riley. It lets owners limit the car’s speed so that devastating incidents like this are less likely to occur. When you bring up Tesla’s Speed Limit Mode on the car’s touch screen, it notes, “In memory of Barrett Riley.”
Riley’s family decided to follow through with suing Tesla in 2019. The family claimed the Model S had a defective battery pack, and that’s why it caught fire. The Rileys said Tesla fails to warn buyers of the risks of its dangerous batteries. However, it’s not uncommon for any car, gas or electric, to catch fire as a result of a crash, and this is especially true when the crash happens at very high speeds and results in catastrophic damage to the car and its surroundings.
When the lawsuit first came to light, Tesla provided the following comment, according to Electrek:
“Our thoughts continue to be with the families affected by this tragedy. Unfortunately, no car could have withstood a high-speed crash of this kind. Tesla’s Speed Limit Mode, which allows Tesla owners to limit their car’s speed and acceleration, was introduced as an over-the-air update last year in dedication to our customer’s son, Barrett Riley, who tragically passed away in the accident.”
As the story goes, Riley’s parents actually had to have Tesla put a speed-limiting device in their Model S so that Barrett couldn’t drive it so fast. However, without them knowing, Barrett had the Tesla Service Center remove the device so he could speed. The family blamed Tesla for the oversight.
After three years, the Rileys’ case against Tesla finally went before a jury. The family was awarded $10.5 million since the jury found Tesla negligent. However, the jury noted that Tesla was only 1 percent liable for the situation. Meanwhile, Barret and his father were found primarily to blame. According to Electrek, based on details of the verdict shared by Law360:
“The jury found Tesla negligent for a crash in a 2014 Model S that killed two Florida teens and awarded the family $10.5M. However, that payout is the result of only 1% liability and the bulk of blame was assigned to the teenaged operator and his father.”
Tesla hasn’t provided a comment about the jury’s verdict.
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