A lawsuit filed in Harris County, Texas on Monday accused Tesla Inc. of negligently designing and manufacturing the electric vehicle after its autopilot system failed and the 2019 Model X crashed into several police officers who were engaged in a traffic stop in a blocked-off lane on the freeway. The five officers and the civilian at the scene were badly injured, the complaint provided by Click2Houston.com, says.
The filing explains that Tesla Inc. is an “electric vehicle and clean energy company,” that touts the safety of its Model X. Additionally, the company and its CEO, Elon Musk, have reportedly exaggerated the capabilities of the model’s autopilot feature despite several incidents that have occurred when the car was self-driving. “Due to the rise in collisions involving Tesla vehicles engaged in Autopilot system and parked emergency vehicles with flashing lights, the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has opened an investigation,” the complaint further explains.
According to the plaintiffs, the incidents should have prompted Tesla to incorporate additional safeguards or to fix the autopilot issues. “Tesla has intentionally decided not to remedy these issues and must be held liable and accountable, especially when it has detailed knowledge of the risks and dangers associated with its Autopilot system,” the complaint argues.
The crash at the heart of the product liability case reportedly occurred on Feb. 27. Five officers were allegedly searching a vehicle suspected to contain narcotics with a police dog when the Model X going approximately 70 mph “plowed into the scene.”
The Tesla collided with two police Chevrolet Tahoes blocking the lane, flashing lights engaged, reportedly pushing the SUVs into the officers and the civilian who was detained. According to the complaint, the human victims were taken to the hospital while the “canine officer” had to visit the vet.
Prior to the crash, the Tesla driver was reportedly at Pappasito’s Cantina, owned by defendant Pappas Restaurant Inc. The establishment is named as a defendant alongside Tesla for allegedly overserving the driver in violation of Texas’s Dram Shop Act.
The plaintiffs accuse the car manufacturer of negligence and various counts of product liability. They seek ten million in actual damages and the same amount in exemplary damages and are represented by The Buzbee Law Firm and Muery & Farrell PC.