Elon Musk told the father of a teenage boy who died in a Tesla Model S crash that the automaker made a mistake by removing a speed limiter from the vehicle without the father’s permission, a family lawyer said before the court. court.
Curtis Miner, the attorney, told a jury on Thursday that the billionaire CEO of Tesla Inc. made a “critical confession” when James Riley asked him in a phone conversation in May 2018 how a device that was supposed to prevent the vehicle to go faster than 85 miles per hour (about 137 km per hour) was suppressed before Barrett Riley, 18, left a Florida road at 116 miles per hour (about 186 km per hour) and hit a wall.
After confirming that James Riley, through his company, was the car’s registered owner, Musk said Tesla technicians shouldn’t have removed the speed limiter without his permission, according to the account. telephone call from the lawyer.
“Well, I guess we shouldn’t have taken the limiter off,” Riley Musk recalled saying when he took the witness stand to testify against Tesla. Riley said the CEO told him Tesla was going to review its policies.
In his opening argument at a trial set for next week in federal court in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Miner said the company’s failure to contact Barrett’s parents made all the difference.
“If Tesla had taken the simplest steps to tell Jim and Jenny Riley what they had done,” this accident would not have happened, he said.
The negligence case is the first for the world’s most valuable automaker involving a fatal accident involving one of its vehicles. The electric carmaker is facing a wave of lawsuits over crashes blamed on its Autopilot driver assistance feature, which have also drawn increasing scrutiny from safety regulators.
Tesla’s attorney presented a very different narrative to the six-person jury.
“A speed limiter is not a safety device,” Vince Galvin said. “Is it okay if they crash at 85 mph instead of 116 mph?”
Tesla said Barrett Riley went in person to the Tesla facility where the Model S was being serviced and “tricked” his staff to remove the speed limiter.
“Tesla is unable to monitor the Rileys’ children,” Galvin said.
Galvin took issue with what happened during the phone call between Musk and Riley. Musk is not a witness in the case.
“If Musk had told him they had done something wrong,” Riley reportedly told the National Transportation Safety Board during the agency’s investigation into the crash, but he “didn’t divulge anything,” said said the lawyer.
Galvin said Barrett was known among friends and family for his “reckless” and “dangerous” driving. His mother urged his friends to stop him from speeding, saying she feared for their safety, the lawyer said.
“The Rileys negligently gave their vehicle to Barrett because they knew and should have known he had drivability issues,” Galvin said.
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