A grieving widow is seeking her pound of flesh from Tesla as she blames the automaker for the death of her husband. According to her, the car malfunctioned while he was driving, causing him to crash into a tree. If that wasn’t bad enough, he was evidently trapped in the car and unable to escape as flames consumed the entire vehicle.
There’s little question that a lithium-ion battery fire can be many magnitudes more difficult to put out than a conventional gas fire. That seems to be at the heart of the claim made by plaintiff Jiyoung Yoon against Tesla in New York. Carscoops dug into the actual legal complaint and it’s not very specific about what Yoon believes actually happened.
The actual document submitted to the District Court says that “the Subject Vehicle malfunctioned and collided with a tree, striking near the Subject Vehicle’s driver-side rear door. Upon impact, the Subject Vehicle immediately ignited, exploded, and engulfed Mr. Hahn and the Subject Vehicle in an inferno of flames.”
Exactly how the Tesla “malfunctioned” in a manner that caused the accident isn’t stated. It goes on to claim that Mr. Hahn survived the initial impact but was “unable to escape” but again, doesn’t state exactly why he was unable to escape and how the car malfunctioned to cause that. Despite that, the suit features three counts against Tesla including strict liability and negligence.
The third is an implied breach of warranty where again, the suit alleges that Tesla sold the vehicle in a “defective and not crashworthy” state. Ms. Yoon is seeking a jury trial but there’s no news on how far this suit will actually get before a verdict or judgment comes down.
Photos from the lawsuit do indeed show that the Model 3 in question ended up as a burnt-out husk of its former self. As we’ve covered in the past, battery fires are dangerous and some people struggle to get out of their Tesla if the electric door popper becomes inoperable. Do those factors make Tesla legally responsible for an accident like this? We might be about to find out.
We’ve reached out to Tesla for comment and will update this story when we hear back from them.