On December 30, 2016, McCune Wright Arevalo, LLP, and Stradling Yocca Carlson & Rauth, P.C., filed a federal individual and class action lawsuit against Tesla Motors, Inc., on behalf of Ji Chang Son in the Central District of California, alleging the Tesla’s Model X is defective resulting in an extraordinarily high rate of Sudden Unintended Acceleration (“SUA”) events.
McCune Wright Arevalo, LLP, is a Southern California auto product liability and class action law firm that in 2009 filed the first class action lawsuit against Toyota alleging that defects in the Toyota vehicles were resulting in SUA events. As a result of the SUA issues, and failure to promptly acknowledge those issues, following several years of litigation Toyota settled over 300 private injury and wrongful death lawsuits, settled the class claims valued at up to $1.6 billion, and payed the federal government over $1.2 billion in fines.
According to Richard McCune of McCune Wright Arevalo, LLP, there are some similarities between the Toyota problem and the Tesla problem. “What we saw in Toyota was that the number of SUA events occurring with Toyota vehicles was significantly higher than other manufacturers, meaning that something was going on other than ‘driver error.’ What the complaint alleges is that the ratio of SUA events for Tesla versus the rate found in the literature on other vehicles is staggering – far higher than what was reported for Toyota vehicles.”
The similarities do not end with the higher number of reported SUA events. Like Toyota, Tesla’s response to an obvious serious safety problem is to blame the driver. Here, Tesla claims that as Mr. Son was pulling into the garage, he decided to press the accelerator pedal all the way to the floor. One of the features of the Tesla is that it records such events – including taking and recording pictures from a forward facing camera. Below is a picture captured by the Tesla immediately before Mr. Son supposedly decided to press the accelerator all the way to the floor with his son in the right front seat.
In response to the lawsuit, rather than defending its engineering, Tesla blamed Mr. Son and falsely impugned his motives. In an official statement, Tesla claimed that “before filing his class action lawsuit against Tesla, Mr. Son had threatened to use his celebrity status in Korea to hurt Tesla unless we agreed to make a financial payment and acknowledge that the vehicle accelerated on its own.” In an email sent by Benedict Kwon of Stradling Yocca Carlson & Rauth, P.C., “unless Tesla comes to an amicable conclusion with Mr. Son by the close of business this Friday, September 23rd, Mr. Son has decided to file a lawsuit early next week. In addition, he will hold a press conference both in the United States and in South Korea to discuss the incident of September 10, 2016.” These statements cannot be construed as a threat to force a financial payment by Tesla. In fact, as the personal lawyer of Mr. Son, Benedict Kwon confirmed that Mr. Son has never made any demand for financial payment from Tesla. In addition, Benedict Kwon confirmed that Mr. Son’s intentions of making a public disclosure was for the purpose of making people aware of his experience with his Tesla X in the hopes that he could prevent similar occurrences from happening in the future. To date, Mr. Son has not held any press conferences, and his only action was to file a legal action against Tesla only after Tesla refused to admit any fault. Mr. Son has only been responding to media inquiries in relation to his filing of a legal action.
On September 23, 2016, Mr. Son received a letter from Tesla citing its conclusions regarding Mr. Son’s incident with his Tesla Model X. In the Tesla letter, there seemed to be some factual discrepancies. On October 13, 2016, Mr. Son’s attorney, Richard McCune, sent a follow up letter requesting additional information from Tesla regarding these factual discrepancies. Only after several months, on December 12, 2016, did Tesla respond, refusing to answer important questions regarding the software and sensors used to measure accelerator pedal position on the basis that this is “proprietary information.” Accordingly, Mr. Son had no choice but to file a legal action against Tesla on December 30, 2016. Mr. Son’s desire has always been to expose the truth about the dangers with this vehicle, and he intends to pursue the truth in his legal action against Tesla.
In its rush to blame the driver in this and each of the other accidents, Tesla does not explain why the engineers at Tesla designed the vehicle to accept an instruction to accelerate full speed into a wall in the vehicle owner’s home. According to Richard McCune, “Tesla has marketed and sold these very expensive vehicles to consumers claiming that they are far and away the smartest and safest vehicles on the road. A vehicle that has been engineered to know it is at home, open the garage door, and even pull in or out of the garage without a driver, but then blindly accepts an instruction (whether the result of driver error or electronic malfunction) to go full speed into the garage wall is neither smart nor safe and is defective. It was just very fortunate that no one was in the garage or in the family room on the other side of the wall. I believe that unless Tesla acknowledges and fixes this problem, it is only a matter of time before the picture captured by the camera in a Tesla SUA event is going to show an unspeakable tragedy.”
McCune Wright Arevalo, LLP, and Stradling Yocca Carlson & Rauth, P.C., are submitting a letter to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (“NHTSA”) this week requesting that an investigation be opened into the Tesla Model X for defects resulting in sudden unintended acceleration.
Richard McCune of McCune Wright Arevalo, LLP, and Benedict Kwon of Stradling Yocca Carlson and Rauth, P.C., are available for comment. A copy of the filed complaint is available at https://mccunewright.com/tesla-sudden-acceleration-class-action/
SOURCE McCune Wright Arevalo, LLP