Tesla Autopilot cleared in 2019 case involving Model S, plaintiff awarded zero damages

Tesla Autopilot did not fail to perform safely in the case of a 2019 accident involving a Model S in California, a jury in the state found on Friday.

Justine Hsu of Los Angeles sued Tesla in 2020 after an accident that occurred the year prior left her with a fractured jaw, missing teeth, and nerve damage to her face after her Model S allegedly swerved into a curb while operating on Autopilot.

Hsu believed Autopilot had a flawed design, which contributed to the accident, and sued Tesla in an effort to claim over $3 million in damages.

Tesla denied liability for the accident and said that Hsu was using Autopilot on city streets, an act that the automaker warned against doing, Reuters said in its report. Tesla Autopilot was only to be used on highways.

On Friday, a Superior Court in Los Angeles awarded Hsu zero damages and acquitted Tesla of wrongdoing. The jury said the airbag, which Hsu claimed caused the various facial injuries as the car collided with the curb, did not fail to act appropriately and performed safely. It also found that Tesla did not intentionally fail to disclose facts about the vehicle’s operation to her, the report said.

It is a groundbreaking win for Tesla in what is likely the first of many future cases involving a plaintiff involved in an accident and an automaker developing semi-autonomous vehicle capabilities.

In the instance of Tesla, the company has offered its robust driver assistance suites, including Autopilot and Full Self-Driving, to customers at a price. However, the various warnings the automaker has put forth on its website and owner’s manuals have not prevented drivers from using them irresponsibly.

Unfortunately, it is not the first occurrence of an accident while Autopilot or FSD have been engaged. Tesla Autopilot was accused of being active in a 2021 crash in Texas that claimed the lives of two people.

However, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) found that excessive speed was the cause of the accident and not Autopilot.

Of course, this is just one instance, but Hsu’s case saw Tesla acquitted of any wrongdoing, and it is a major win for the automaker as it moves forward with its development of driver assistance suites.

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