Elon Musk Won’t Have To Testify In Tesla Wrongful Death Suitthedigitalchaps



An appeals court has ruled that Tesla CEO Elon Musk will not have to testify in a wrongful death lawsuit after two teenagers were killed in a Tesla Model S going 116 miles per hour in 2018—after a Tesla technician removed speed limiting software on the teen’s vehicle.

Key Facts

A panel of three judges at Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeals agreed unanimously that Elon Musk was shielded from a deposition order as part of a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the family of one of the teenagers.

A trial court ruled that Musk would have to testify after he called one victim’s father and allegedly made comments about the car’s speed limiting software.

Musk refused to sit for a deposition, but provided a sworn statement that he did not remember making the comments.

The appeals court ultimately ruled that Musk did not have “unique, personal knowledge of discoverable information” directly related to the deadly crash in 2018.

Key Background

Barrett Riley, 18, and his passenger Edgar Monserrat Martinez, 18, were both killed in the crash in Fort Lauderdale in 2018. An investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board later determined Riley was driving 116 miles per hour around a curve, where the speed limit was 30 miles per hour. According to the report, the car struck a curb before striking a wall beside a residential driveway. The car caught fire after the second collision. Riley’s Tesla was equipped with software limiting his maximum speed to 85 miles per hour, but investigators determined a Tesla technician removed the software for the 18-year-old after a complaint. In the weeks after the two teenagers’ deaths, Musk called Riley’s father, James Riley, and offered his condolences. In a deposition, James Riley said that Musk “said something to the effect of, perhaps we should not have removed the limiter. We will have to review and revise our policies.” Lawyers for Martinez’s family have been pressuring Musk to testify about his knowledge of software since 2021.

Surprising Fact

A federal jury in Florida awarded $10.5 million in damages to Barrett Riley’s parents in 2022, the Associated Press reported. However, the jury also determined that Barrett Riley was 90% at fault, while his father James Riley was 9% at fault. Tesla was only 1% at fault for the crash—meaning the EV manufacturer would only be responsible for about $105,000.

Further Reading

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