A Florida judge has ruled that there is “reasonable evidence” indicating that Tesla CEO Elon Musk and other managers knew about a defective Autopilot system in the company’s vehicles but still allowed them to be driven unsafely. The ruling is a setback for Tesla after winning two product liability trials earlier in the year. The case stems from a 2019 crash in which a Tesla Model 3 drove under a trailer, resulting in a fatality.
The judge’s decision allows the plaintiff to proceed to trial and bring punitive damages claims against Tesla for intentional misconduct and gross negligence. The ruling highlights alleged inconsistencies between Tesla’s internal knowledge and its marketing of the Autopilot system. The judge also noted inadequate warnings in Tesla’s manuals and agreements. The case draws parallels to a 2016 fatal crash, and a video from that year showing a Tesla driving without human intervention was cited as evidence in the ruling. Tesla has not yet commented on the decision.
What are punitive damages?
According to Florida Statute 768.72:
- In any civil action, no claim for punitive damages shall be permitted unless there is a reasonable showing by evidence in the record or proffered by the claimant which would provide a reasonable basis for recovery of such damages. The claimant may move to amend her or his complaint to assert a claim for punitive damages as allowed by the rules of civil procedure. The rules of civil procedure shall be liberally construed so as to allow the claimant discovery of evidence which appears reasonably calculated to lead to admissible evidence on the issue of punitive damages. No discovery of financial worth shall proceed until after the pleading concerning punitive damages is permitted.
- A defendant may be held liable for punitive damages only if the trier of fact, based on clear and convincing evidence, finds that the defendant was personally guilty of intentional misconduct or gross negligence. As used in this section, the term:
- “Intentional misconduct” means that the defendant had actual knowledge of the wrongfulness of the conduct and the high probability that injury or damage to the claimant would result and, despite that knowledge, intentionally pursued that course of conduct, resulting in injury or damage.
- “Gross negligence” means that the defendant’s conduct was so reckless or wanting in care that it constituted a conscious disregard or indifference to the life, safety, or rights of persons exposed to such conduct.
- In the case of an employer, principal, corporation, or other legal entity, punitive damages may be imposed for the conduct of an employee or agent only if the conduct of the employee or agent meets the criteria specified in subsection (2) and:
- The employer, principal, corporation, or other legal entity actively and knowingly participated in such conduct;
- The officers, directors, or managers of the employer, principal, corporation, or other legal entity knowingly condoned, ratified, or consented to such conduct; or
- The employer, principal, corporation, or other legal entity engaged in conduct that constituted gross negligence and that contributed to the loss, damages, or injury suffered by the claimant.
- The provisions of this section shall be applied to all causes of action arising after the effective date of this act.
Compensatory damages are what are generally sought after in all lawsuits. They are meant to compensate the victim for the harm or damage that was done to them or their property. They are awarded to cover bills for medical treatment and repairs to property, and to make up for lost wages and loss of quality of life.
If Tesla and Elon Musk did indeed know of the defective autopilot system, that’s not ignorance, it’s willful negligence, and absolutely makes them open to punitive damages.
Hickey Law Firm specializes in “life changing injuries”®. Call us first. Call us now. 800.215.7117
While many accidents that happen are due to non-malicious or non-willful negligence by the offender, offenders who cause an accident willfully and with the knowledge that injuries could result due to their actions or negligence deserve to be pursued with full force of the law. When you suffer life-changing injuries due to someone else’s negligence, it’s heartbreaking and unjust, but even more so when the perpetrator knew that they could cause harm to someone else.
To file a lawsuit to claim not only compensatory damages, but punitive damages, contact the diligent attorneys at Hickey Law Firm. We will fight for you and for every penny you deserve. We do not take such lawsuits lightly. We prioritize quality over quantity. Instead of having a large number of lawyers, we maintain a select few. Our client base isn’t vast; it’s a carefully chosen number. This way, you are our top priority; we are committed to you.
Located in Miami, we are here to fight for you when you have been wronged. We won’t charge you until we win: no fee until you win. Our fees are from your recovery award, not from you. There is no obligation from you before then. None. To schedule a free consultation, call us or use our contact page.
Attorney John H. (Jack) Hickey and his team handle a wide range of cases, including but not limited to cruise ship accidents, admiralty and maritime accident cases, medical malpractice, wrongful death, premises liability, railroad accidents and car accidents. We represent victims from all over the nation, the world and the state of Florida.