Family of 15-year-old boy killed in crash with Tesla vehicle sue car company

The firm is already facing a handful of challenges in court for accidents involving the feature

Gino Spocchia
Tuesday 06 July 2021 16:12
<p>An electric Tesla Model 3</p>

An electric Tesla Model 3

The family of a 15-year-old boy who was killed in a Tesla autopilot crash are taking legal action against the firm.

Jovani Maldonado was in the front passenger seat when he was thrown from his father’s Ford Explorer on 24 August 2019, and died in a collision involving a Tesla.

His father, Benjmain Maldonado, brought the case against Tesla in Alameda County’s superior court in California for the failure of its autopilot feature in the crash, The New York Times reported on Monday.

It is the most recent case filed against Tesla, with a handful of cases so far this year.

Jovani and his father were travelling on California’s interstate 880 when they were hit by a Tesla Model 3 that was travelling on autopilot at speeds of 70 miles per hour, The Times reported.

The teenager, who was not wearing a seat belt, was found lying face down on the interstate. His father, according to footage of the incident, had flashed his lights four times at the Tesla.

Neither the autopilot feature nor the Tesla driver, Romeo Lagman Yalung, slowed down for Mr Maldonado, who was trying to move into the next lane, before swerving away at the last moment.

The footage from the Tesla involved in the crash makes the case brought by Mr Maldonado a rare test of the firm’s autopilot feature in court.

A lawyer for the Maldonado family, Benjamin Swanson, was told by a Tesla attorney that the driver was at fault for the August 2019 incident, according to court filings seen by The Times.

“The police faulted the Tesla driver – not the car – for his inattention and his driving at an unsafe speed,” wrote Ryan McCarthy to Mr Swanson, who requested the video from Tesla.

The firm and Mr Yalung have not addressed the case in court, according to The Times.

“We are living day by day,” Mr Maldonado said of his son’s death. “There is so much sadness inside. We take family walks and try to do things together like going to church. There is a massive hole in the family.”

Tesla has been approached for comment by The Independent. Mr Yalung and his lawyer could not be reached.