Tesla Model X Owner Sues Over Sudden Unintended Acceleration


Ji Chang Son took delivery of a new Tesla Model X in August of last year. About a month later, as Mr. Son was turning into his driveway at his home in Orange County, California, he says the car suddenly leaped forward at a high rate of speed, crashed through the back wall of his garage, and ended up in his living room. On December 30, attorneys representing Mr. Son filed a class action lawsuit in federal court in California. To qualify for class action status under federal law, the complaint must state that total damages for all the members of the class must exceed $5 million. Tesla Model X sudden unintended acceleration

“The vehicle spontaneously began to accelerate at full power, jerking forward and crashing through the interior wall of the garage, destroying several wooden support beams in the wall and a steel sewer pipe, among other things, and coming to rest in Plaintiffs’ living room,” the lawsuit said according to Reuters. Tesla says it has examined the data from the car’s computer and determined the accelerator pedal was fully depressed at the time of the incident. A Tesla Model X is capable of accelerating to 60 mph in about 3 seconds, so things happen pretty fast when the unexpected happens.

Son’s attorneys claim the car’s Automatic Emergency Braking systems should prevent it from crashing into solid objects even if the driver accidentally presses the wrong pedal. But they deny their client did so in this instance. The bizarre part of the legal filing is a chart created by the plaintiff’s legal team claiming to show sudden unintended acceleration occurs at the rate of 64 times per 100,000 vehicles on the road — about 20 times more frequently than in other vehicles. That figure is highly speculative since there were only about 16,000 Model X vehicles on the road at the time of this incident.

If you follow the “where there’s smoke, there’s fire” theory, there have been 8 official reports of sudden unintended acceleration by a Tesla Model X filed by owners with the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration and some of them are eerily similar to Mr. Son’s experience — the car racing ahead and crashing while travelling at very low speeds. In fact, Tesla acknowledges that the Automatic Emergency Braking system will not function below 8 miles per hour and will disable itself if it thinks the driver is attempting to perform an emergency maneuver.

Tesla says the accelerator was fully depressed, but the car is capable of accelerating on its own under some circumstances. Does the computer know the difference between when a human foot is depressing the pedal and when the computer itself is instructing the car to accelerate? Perhaps by the time this litigation is concluded, we will know more on that subject.

Now that suit has been filed, the plaintiff’s attorneys can request Tesla to turn over any reports of sudden unintended acceleration known to it that are not yet matters of public record. Expect Tesla to vigorously defend against this legal action. And don’t hold your breath. Litigation like this often takes years to reach a conclusion. The wheels of justice turn very, very slowly.

Source: Teslarati   The photo shown is contained in the legal filings made by Mr. Son’s attorneys.

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I have been a car nut since the days when Rob Walker and Henry N. Manney, III graced the pages of Road & Track. Today, I use my trusty Miata for TSD rallies and occasional track days at Lime Rock and Watkins Glen. If it moves on wheels, I’m interested in it. Please follow me on Google + and Twitter.

  • Kieran Delaney

    As the lethargic son of a very well-educated attorney, I can safely say that this – given the slippery people I’ve witnessed my father deal with on a monthly basis – sounds like complete, unadulterated….


    • Steve Hanley

      As someone who practiced law for 25 year but could never get it right, I concur! You should read John Grisham’s The King of Torts if you want insight into the class action “industry.”

      • Kieran Delaney

        I will look out for that one, thanks for the tip!

  • Jesse G

    Sounds like someone was testing out Tesla’s Launch Mode and didn’t stop in time. Son cried wolf and daddy tries to cash in.

  • James Rowland

    If this wasn’t user error, I’ll be astonished.

  • Burnerjack

    I have often wondered how many such events have involved drivers that drive with both feet. It is a natural and instinctive response to press down on a pedal with full force when a vehicle accelerates instead of slowing when one makes a mistake.

    • BlackTalon53 .

      Except Tesla cuts the power to the motor when gas and brake pedal are pressed at the same time. It is all fly-by-wire and computer controlled, so it is not mechanically possible to accelerate “against” pressed brakes.

      • Burnerjack

        Very interesting. I thank you for that information. Of course, that may absolve this particular driver of that type of error, it does not absolve the others, of which, it seems, to be becoming more numerous. As I drive down the interstate, it is easy to see how many drivers do drive with two feet. They are the ones I term “frivolous brakers”. No coasting at all. Accel or brake lights. Nothing in between.
        Back to the Tesla Driver in question, I really do have to wonder if he just “messed up”. My friend’s kid did the same thing on a learner’s permit. Went to stop at a busy street from a side street and shot across the street and took out a chain link fence. As soon as the car accelerated due to his mistake, his brain perceived an ‘errant’ car as opposed to “oops, wrong peddle!”, therefore, stomped down even harder, compounding the severity of the initial “operator error”.
        The Tesla Driver has many thousands of reasons to stand by his story. A whole back there were a spate of BMW Drivers with the same claim yet no forensic evidence to support their claims.

  • kevin mccune

    I am sorry but IMO ,most of the time it is driver error . I remember one time they put a brake camera or something on a stock car to see how brakes were being applied ,the professional driver was astonished ,He had no awareness of using the brakes that much. This also reminds me of the Toyota acceleration fiasco ,one woman called up Her loved ones and said goodbye for several minutes , rather then’
    A .driving over into a soft earthen patch or sandy spot .
    B. turning the ignition off.
    C. putting the vehicle into neutral.
    D. Jamming on the brakes immediately . ( works ,its been verified )
    Just saying ,there are probably other ways to stop a runaway vehicle ,I am very skeptical of runaway acceleration claims .Most of the time panic rules and the first instinct is to firewall whatever pedal the foot is on , at the time .