Tesla CEO Elon Musk spared from testifying in Autopilot crash lawsuit

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has been spared from testifying in the first lawsuit set for trial that blames the EV maker's Autopilot system for a fatal crash, a Florida judge ruled. The ruling that shields the CEO from being questioned by lawyers for the deceased driver’s family implies that the electric-car maker in on course for a victory.

File photo used for representational purpose only (REUTERS)
File photo used for representational purpose only

Without a deposition of Musk, it will be harder for the family of the deceased driver to argue that the electric vehicle maker made irresponsible decisions under his leadership about marketing its driver-assistance software at the expense of safety. But Tesla has shown that Musk “does not have unique personal knowledge of the issues in the case," Florida Circuit Court Judge Janis Keyser wrote in a brief ruling.

The lawsuit has been filed based on the 2019 death of Jeremy Banner, 50, who died while driving his Tesla Model 3 that crashed into the underside of a semi-trailer truck crossing a Florida highway. The case is scheduled to go to trial September 20 in Palm Beach County.

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The family claims Tesla didn’t fix Autopilot so it would shut down in dangerous circumstances despite a similar accident at a traffic crossing in 2016 that killed another Florida man who had engaged the technology.

However, lawyers representing Tesla have argued that the company has been open and honest about Autopilot’s limitations, including the difficulty of detecting traffic crossing in front of its cars. The lawyers highlighted that the company has warned drivers on its car screens and owner’s manual that drivers must be alert and ready to take control of the vehicles at any time.

The Banner family's lawyer Lytal maintained that Musk’s deposition is central to the dispute because only he can answer the questions about why Tesla would “allow this dangerous technology to be used on a roadway where the car knows it’s going to fail." On the contrary, Tesla’s attorney, Vincent Galvin, countered that the demands to question Musk are just harassment.

(with inputs from Bloomberg)

First Published Date: 18 Mar 2022, 10:33 AM IST
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