Northern California Record

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

South Korean celebrity files class-action lawsuit against Tesla Motors

By Heather Doyle | Jan 16, 2017

Tesla's luxury Model X was launched in 2015. | Tesla Motors

PALO ALTO, Calif. — A Tesla Model X owner has filed a sudden unintended acceleration class-action lawsuit against Tesla Motors Inc. after his electric sport-utility vehicle crashed through the garage and into his home while being parked.

The owner, Ji Chang Son, is a South Korean celebrity who lives in California. According to a news release issued by Son’s attorneys, Tesla claims that Son has threatened to use his celebrity status to hurt Tesla unless a financial agreement could be reached.

Son claims he was turning into his driveway on Sept. 10, 2016, at 6 miles per hour and had just opened his garage when the car suddenly accelerated through the garage into the living room.

"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 the plaintiff's living room,” the lawsuit said.

Tesla said in a statement in a story on that it has conducted a full investigation and disagrees with Son.

"The evidence, including data from the car, conclusively shows that the crash was the result of Mr. Son pressing the accelerator pedal all the way to 100 percent," a Tesla spokesperson said.

Tesla said it has protections against pedal misapplication.

Bryant Walker Smith, a former transportation engineer who teaches technology and mobility law at the University of South Carolina School of Law, said that evidence will be key in this case.

“Cases like this require evidence rather than speculation, and I look forward to seeing that evidence presented and analyzed,” Smith told The Northern California Record. “And I say this having taught an entire course on the sudden unintended-acceleration debacle from a decade ago.”

The lawsuit cites several other sudden acceleration complaints registered with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Attorneys managing the lawsuit said Tesla has sold about 16,000 Model X SUVs in the U.S., all of which use electronic acceleration-control systems by which complex computer and sensor systems communicate an accelerator pedal’s position to the computers, telling the SUVs what their speeds should be.

“Without more information, it would be irresponsible of me to speculate on technical possibility or plausibility in this case,” Smith said. “At some point in the future, cars that go through walls will probably be considered defective — but that doesn't seem to be the claim in this case.”

Son is represented by McCune Wright Arevalo LLP and Stradling Yocca Carlson & Rauth, P.C. McCune Wright Arevalo LLP in 2009 filed the first class-action lawsuit against Toyota alleging that defects were resulting in sudden acceleration events. Toyota settled more than 300 private-injury and wrongful-death lawsuits, settled the class claims that were valued at up to $1.6 billion, and paid more than $1.2 billion in fines to the federal government.

One of Son’s attorneys said there are plenty of similarities in the two lawsuits.

"What we saw in Toyota was that the number of sudden-acceleration events occurring with Toyota vehicles was significantly higher than other manufacturers, meaning that something was going on other than 'driver error,’” attorney Richard McCune said in the news release. “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."

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