Jury Verdict in Tesla Case Shows How Contributory Negligence Works
Posted by Wetherington Law Firm | Defective Vehicles
Though the company will still have to pay monetary damages, Tesla recently gained a victory of sorts in a defective vehicles lawsuit stemming from a fatal crash in 2018. Atlanta’s WSB-TV News Channel 2 covered the story, explaining that the jury awarded $10.5 million in compensation to the teen victim’s family – which amount was then reduced to $105,000 due to the court’s application of the rule on contributory fault. The plaintiff had alleged that the lithium-ion batteries in the Tesla Model S were defective and burst into flames upon impact, killing the victim. However, jurors found that the deceased victim was partly responsible for causing the accident due to excessive speed.
Plaintiffs are likely disappointed in the verdict, while Tesla celebrates not having to pay the full award of $10.5 million. Still, the case is useful for showing how the rule of contributory negligence works in product liability cases. An Atlanta defective vehicles accident attorney can describe details on how the law works in Georgia, though an overview is informative.
Pure Contributory Negligence Reduces Compensation
Initially, you should note that the recent case against Tesla was proceeding in a South Florida courtroom, so the laws of that jurisdiction apply. The state has enacted a “pure” version of comparative fault, in which the plaintiff could be up to 99 percent at fault and still recover compensation.
The jury in the Tesla case did just that: They found the plaintiff to be 99 percent responsible because the teen victim removed a speed limiter on the vehicle. This enabled him to travel at speeds in excess of the 85 mph that had been set by the device. In its investigation, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), determined that he was driving at 116 mph before slamming into a concrete wall. Had he not been traveling at such extreme speeds, he might not have crashed – and so the allegedly defective batteries would not have exploded into flames.
Note that there are other lawsuits pending against Tesla for defective vehicles, so plaintiffs who were not negligent may be successful.
Georgia’s Law May BAR Monetary Damages
Florida’s version of comparative fault enabled the family to still recover some compensation, but Georgia’s statute operates differently. The law for personal injury cases in this state is “modified” comparative negligence, in which the plaintiff can only obtain monetary damages if he or she is 49 percent or less responsible. In other words, the plaintiff in the Tesla case would recover ZERO in Georgia.
However, if the victim is less than 49 percent at fault, Georgia’s modified comparative negligence law still reduces compensation. For instance, if a jury awarded $100,000 and found you 10 percent liable, you could obtain $90,000 in damages.
Discuss Legal Options with an Atlanta Defective Vehicles Lawyer
Georgia’s comparative negligence law can lead to harsh consequences in any personal injury case, so it is critical to retain skilled legal representation. For more information, please call 470-798-4197 or go online to reach Wetherington Law Firm, P.C. We can set up a free consultation with a Georgia defective vehicles accident attorney who can provide personalized advice.