A jury found Tesla Inc. just 1 percent responsible for the death of a teenager who crashed a Model S into a wall at high speed, concluding that the 18-year-old and his father were 99 percent to blame for the 2018 accident.
The verdict Tuesday in federal court in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., follows the first trial the electric car-maker faced over a fatal accident involving one its electric cars.
The family of Barrett Riley sought to prove the company played a role in his death when service technicians removed a speed-limiting feature from the Model S that they had previously installed at the request of his mother.
Riley and his friend sitting in the passenger seat, also 18, were killed when he lost control of the vehicle at 116 miles per hour and crashed into a concrete wall of a Fort Lauderdale house in 2018.
A claim that a defect in the car’s battery caused it to explode in flames at the crash scene was dismissed before the trial started.
Tesla faces a spate of lawsuits and regulatory probes over accidents linked to its Autopilot driver assistance feature. The first trial among those cases is scheduled for September in Florida state court in Palm Beach County.
Lawyers for Barrett’s father, James Riley, had argued Tesla should have gotten his authorization — as the car’s owner — to remove the speed limiter, which was activated shortly after the teen got a ticket for going 112 mph in a 50 mph zone. The limiter was programmed to prevent the Model S from going faster than 85 mph.
Tesla’s attorneys argued that Barrett tricked Tesla staff into removing the limiter when he came to pick up the car after it was serviced.