Alameda County, CA – February 23, 2023 – Singleton Schreiber partners Brett Schreiber and Ben Siminou represent Benjamin Maldonado in his lawsuit against Tesla. The lawsuit arises from a 2019 catastrophic vehicle collision involving a self-driving Tesla that suddenly rear-ended Mr. Maldonado’s car, causing him to crash. Mr. Maldonado survived the crash – tragically, his 15-year-old son did not.
Tesla’s Deceptive Marketing Practices
The development of autonomous vehicle technology has exploded over the past decade. And as the idea of self-driving cars becomes less of a technological fantasy and more of a reality, the need for regulation and accountability has never been greater.
In 2014, Tesla began equipping all of its vehicles with its advanced driver assistance system (ADAS) under the name “advanced driver assistance.” Tesla executives later decided to change the name to “Autopilot.” The change was implemented despite concern from Tesla engineers that the name was misleading, and that a less deceptive option, such as “Copilot,” was more suitable. Tesla has marketed its ADAS technology under various names, including “Autopilot,” “Enhanced Autopilot,” and “Full Self-Driving Capability,” all of which imply the ability to operate at SAE Levels* 3, 4, and 5. In reality, Tesla’s ADAS is only capable of operating at Level 2 autonomy.
Tesla consistently engages in deceptive marketing of its ADAS technology, stating that Autopilot “reduces your overall workload as a driver,” “enhances safety and convenience behind the wheel,” and “[makes] driving safer and less stressful.” Tesla also distributes promotional materials and videos depicting its vehicles driving themselves with no need for a human driver. But Tesla refuses to implement technology that would provide consumers with the level of automation so frequently promised.
In October 2015, Tesla released a software update enabling Autopilot on its Model S vehicles. Robert Rose, head of the Autopilot project, left Tesla shortly before the release. Evan Nakano, a Tesla Autopilot safety feature engineer, objected, stating that Autopilot was not ready for release. When Tesla ignored his concerns, Nakano resigned in protest and wrote a resignation letter, calling Autopilot’s development “reckless decision-making that has potentially put customer lives at risk.”
The Autopilot Death Toll Continues to Rise
Nakano’s grim prediction continues to be proven true, as evidenced by the string of Autopilot deaths that have followed. For example, in March 2018, Apple engineer Walter Huang was killed when the Autopilot on his Model X became confused at a fork in the highway and caused the car to veer sharply into a concrete barrier in Mountain View, California. In April 2018, a Tesla with Autopilot engaged struck and killed a pedestrian in Japan. In March 2019, Jeremy Banner was killed when his Model 3 with Autopilot engaged drove under a tractor-trailer in Florida. Singleton Schreiber partner Ben Siminou identifies as a recurring theme in these tragic cases the stark contrast between the capabilities Tesla markets to its consumers versus the actual capabilities of the Autopilot technology. “Well-intentioned car companies can design a dangerous car; this is something else,” Siminou states.
The Maldonado Case
Sadly, Plaintiff Benjamin Maldonado’s son joins the growing list of those who lost their lives as a result of Tesla’s Autopilot. Back in 2019, Mr. Maldonado was driving with his son on I-880 in Fremont, California. As Mr. Maldonado signaled and began to change lanes, suddenly and without warning, the Maldonado’s were rear-ended by a Tesla Model 3 with the Autopilot feature engaged. The impact was so great that it caused Mr. Maldonado’s car to roll over and crash into the center barrier of the freeway, catapulting Mr. Maldonado’s son from the vehicle and onto the freeway. His son died at the scene shortly after. Instead of detecting Mr. Maldonado’s vehicle – and slowing down accordingly – the Autopilot software actually accelerated in the few seconds leading up to the collision.
On December 19, 2022, Mr. Maldonado filed a complaint in the Superior Court of Alameda County against Tesla, alleging claims of products liability and negligence. The lawsuit alleges that Tesla’s Autopilot feature is to blame. The Maldonado lawsuit was filed amid Tesla’s recent recall of over 362,000 vehicles due to serious problems with the vehicles’ Full Self-Driving software: specifically, that the system fails to “adequately adhere to traffic safety laws and could cause crashes.” The recall covers all Tesla models, including the subject Model 3, with wide ranges of production dates.
The case is Maldonado v. Tesla et al., Superior Court of California, County of Alameda, Case No. 22CV024143.
About Brett Schreiber, Ben Siminou, and Singleton Schreiber
Singleton Schreiber partners Brett Schreiber and Ben Siminou bring a breadth of expertise and skillful advocacy to the dispute. Schreiber, head of the firm’s Personal Injury and Wrongful death practice group, is an award-winning trial attorney with nearly two decades of experience litigating a variety of complex, high-profile, multi-million-dollar cases. Siminou, head of the firm’s Motion, Writs & Appeals practice group, is an award-winning Certified Appellate Specialist with an extraordinary history of success in the appellate courts, with notable wins in the California Supreme Court, Nebraska Supreme Court, Ninth Circuit, and the California Court of Appeal in high-stakes cases against major defendants. Schreiber and Siminou’s unwavering commitment to their clients will serve them well in zealously advocating for Mr. Maldonado, as well as anyone else who has suffered injury or loss as a result of Tesla’s Autopilot technology. Schreiber and Siminou will also be joined by Benjamin Swanson and Gregory Schaffer of Swanson Law Group as co-counsel.
The award-winning attorneys of Singleton Schreiber are experts at litigating complex, high-value cases and delivering winning results. Those skills have led to consistent success in civil and criminal cases at the trial and appellate stages in state and federal courts throughout the United States.
Singleton Schreiber fights for regular people who have been harmed by corporate greed and government overreach. We hold utility companies accountable for preventable wildfires. We sue corporate defendants whose products and actions hurt people. And we defend civil rights against
government malfeasance and prosecution. Fearless advocacy. That’s how we win.
If you or a loved one has suffered injury, hospitalization, or wrongful death caused by Tesla and its autonomous driving Autopilot technology, the expert attorneys at Singleton Schreiber can help you recover the fair and full compensation you deserve. Our attorneys will ensure that their clients are fully compensated for the disastrous injuries and loss caused by Tesla.
*“SAE Levels of Driving Automation” are a metric used to determine the level of “driver assistance” provided by the vehicle. They are named after SAE International, which is the organization that has developed and published them. The SAE Levels provide a widely-accepted taxonomy of vehicle driving automation systems, which has been adopted internationally and by regulatory agencies such as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). SAE’s six levels range from Level 0, where the human driver performs all driving tasks, to Level 5, where the vehicle is capable of performing all driving tasks under all conditions with zero human attention or interaction required. SAE refers to Level 1 and 2 technologies as systems that provide “driver support,” whereas it refers to Level 3, 4, and 5, technologies as systems that provide “automated driving.”