Florida driver sues Tesla claims autopilot fail caused neck-breaking crash

Matt, Mike Morgan to announce filing of lawsuit Tuesday morning

By Emilee Speck - Digital journalist

ORLANDO, Fla. - Morgan & Morgan announced Tuesday it is suing Elon Musk's electric car company, Tesla, on behalf of a Florida Model S owner who says the autopilot feature failed, causing him to slam into a disabled car on the Florida Turnpike.

According to the lawsuit filed in Orange County with the Ninth Judicial Circuit Court, the 2017 Tesla Model S crashed into a disabled car when the autopilot feature failed. The driver, Shawn Hudson, of Winter Garden, suffered a broken a neck and other severe injuries, according to the law firm.

Hudson told reporters at the news conference that he was driving from Winter Garden to Fort Pierce where he works as a general manager at car dealership on Oct. 12 of last year when he slammed into a disabled Ford Fiesta on the Florida Turnpike. According to the lawsuit, he was driving about 80 mph and using the autopilot feature.

The Ford Fiesta a Tesla Model S on autopilot crashed into on the Florida Turnpike. The Tesla driver is suing Tesla and the Ford Fiesta owner.

Mike Morgan and Matt Morgan are representing the driver and announced the filing of a lawsuit on Tuesday against Tesla for allegedly selling a defective product and deceptive marketing.

Hudson is also suing the owner of the disabled Ford Fiesta for negligence.

The Model S manual tells drivers not to use the autopilot feature in the city or on the highway over 50 mph, Mike Morgan said, adding that the company is advertising a "farce" for their driver-assisted technology.

"Mr. Hudson bought this car for one reason: It could drive itself," Mike Morgan said of the $120,000 Model S.

Hudson said he didn't initially trust the autopilot feature and it took 96,000 miles of driving before he felt comfortable using it. 

According to Tesla’s website, the enhanced autopilot featured on the latest Model S can “match speed to traffic conditions, keep within a lane, automatically change lanes without requiring driver input, transition from one freeway to another, exit the freeway when your destination is near, self-park when near a parking spot and be summoned to and from your garage.”

A Tesla spokesperson said the company does not have any reason to believe its technology was at fault for the crash.

“We don’t like hearing about any accidents in our cars, and we are hopeful that those involved in this incident are recovering. In this case, the car was incapable of transmitting log data to our servers, which has prevented us from reviewing the vehicle’s data from the accident," a spokesperson said in an email to News 6. "However, we have no reason to believe that Autopilot malfunctioned or operated other than as designed. When using Autopilot, it is the driver’s responsibility to remain attentive to their surroundings and in control of the vehicle at all times."

"Tesla has always been clear that Autopilot doesn’t make the car impervious to all accidents, and Tesla goes to great lengths to provide clear instructions about what Autopilot is and is not, including by offering driver instructions when owners test drive and take delivery of their car, before drivers enable Autopilot and every single time they use Autopilot, as well as through the Owner’s Manual and Release Notes for software updates.”

Photos of the Tesla Model S after a crash on the Florida Turnpike. (Courtesy: Morgan & Morgan)

Musk's electric car company has been embattled with other recent legal troubles, including an investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission that ended in a combined $40 million settlement after Musk said in a series of tweets he planned to take Tesla private.

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Several former employees have filed whistleblower complaints with the SEC, some that are stranger than fiction.

Wired Magazine reported last week that a former employee filed a complaint alleging that Tesla management "failed to inform its shareholders and law enforcement that it had uncovered an employee-run drug trafficking scheme out of its Nevada Gigafactory battery plant."

A Tesla spokesperson told Wired some of the former employees allegations were false, but the company took his allegations “very seriously."

Also last week, the Wall Street Journal reported that the FBI is looking into whether Tesla misled investors about production of its Model 3 sedan, which has suffered a string of delays and other issues as the startup sought to bring the car to market.

Tesla said in a statement that investigators came to the company earlier this year and the company provided requested documents.

"We have not received a subpoena, a request for testimony, or any other formal process, and there have been no additional document requests about this from the Department of Justice for months," according to the statement.

Check back for updates on this developing story.

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