Tesla door handles caused doctor's death in fiery crash, widow's law suit says

The Sydney Morning Herald 1 month ago

Fort Lauderdale, Florida: Failure of Telsa's automatic door handles and an "unreasonably dangerous" fire risk caused the death of a doctor who was killed in a fiery crash near Miami, his widow claims in a lawsuit against the electric car company.

Liliana Awan filed the suit against Tesla in Broward Circuit Court earlier this month over the February death of her husband, Dr Omar Awan, a 48-year-old anesthesiologist. The couple had five children.

Tesla's founder and CEO, Elon Musk.

Tesla Motors Inc and its Florida distributor, Tesla Florida Inc, are named as defendants. The company, based in Palo Alto, California, did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the suit.

Omar Awan was driving his leased 2016 Model S when it left the roadway, swerved through three lanes of traffic, hit a median strip and some trees and burst into flames, a police report stated.

A local police officer arrived at the scene almost immediately after the crash and tried to open the car's doors, but the handles failed to automatically extend from their retracted positions, the suit claims.

"Without door handles, he could not open the doors," the suit says.

Tesla's Model S door handles do not extend out of the door unless automatically activated.

Automatic extension of the door handles when the driver approaches a Tesla with a key fob is a feature of the car's design, the suit states. When not in use, the handles withdraw completely into the door. While the withdrawn handles create a "smooth, stylish line," they cannot be accessed manually, Liliana Awan's complaint states.

Tesla claims the door handles are "designed for efficiency" and help make the Model S "the most aerodynamic car in its class."

A Consumer Reports survey in 2015 found numerous issues with inoperable door handles on the Model S, Bloomberg reported.

As smoke from the Tesla's burning batteries filled the car's cabin, the police officer and other bystanders watched helplessly as Awan's car became engulfed in flames, the suit says.

"After the Tesla hit the tree, he was alive. He had no internal injuries or broken bones. He died from the smoke he inhaled as he sat locked inside the Tesla, despite that a police officer and others were there and ready to help, until flames forced them away," the suit says.

Florida lawyer Stuart Grossman said he believed Awan was conscious after the crash and tried but failed to open the door from inside the car while the would-be rescuers tried to open it from the outside.

"I cannot imagine he sat there burning to death without trying to open the door," the attorney said on Thursday.

Tesla should have made sure its car could be accessed in an emergency, he said. "If a car is going to crash – and inevitably they do – and you cannot get out of the car or cannot get into the car to rescue someone, that's a fundamental design flaw," Grossman said.

The car "continued to burn for hours, reigniting several times, even after the initial fire had been extinguished by emergency professionals and the car was towed," the suit states.

Tesla knew that its batteries were prone to "unique types of fire risk," the widow claimed.

The lawsuit charges that Awan's Tesla was "defective and unreasonably dangerous" because the door handles could not be operated after the crash, and because its batteries were prone to catching fire. Telsa, the suit claims, was negligent for failing to warn Awan of the alleged defects.

"Tesla vehicles are engineered to be the safest cars in the world and Tesla drivers have driven more than 10 billion miles to date," a Tesla spokeswoman said shortly after the crash.

Liliana Awan's suit is the latest in a series of lawsuits against Tesla following fatal crashes in South Florida.

Earlier this month, the father of 18-year-old Barrett Riley filed a claim against Tesla in California, blaming his May 2018 death in Fort Lauderdale on the battery design of the 2014 Model S.

Riley and another person were killed when Riley lost control of his father's Tesla while driving 116 mp/h (185km/h). The car exploded into a ball of fire after smashing into a concrete wall.

In July, the family of a 50-year-old killed in the March crash of his Model 3 into a semitrailer in west Delray Beach filed a suit in Palm Beach County, blaming the death on failure of the car's Autopilot feature.

McClatchy


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Breitbart › Technology › 1 month ago
The design of Tesla's door handles is being blamed for the recent death of a Tesla driver who was unable to be rescued from his burning vehicle following a crash, according to a wrongful death lawsuit.
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A TESLA driver burned to death after he crashed because his cars’ “futuristic handles” trapped him in and rescuers “couldn’t open the doors”. Dr Omar Awan, 48, lost control of his car, skidded across a road and smashed straight into a palm...
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