— Five Texas police officers have sued Tesla for alleged design and manufacturing defects in the Autopilot system.
Named as plaintiffs are officers Dalton Fields, Rai Duenas, Kenneth Barnett, Chris Taylor and Daniel Santiago.
The plaintiffs claim they were "badly injured" and suffered "severe injuries and permanent disabilities" in a February 27, 2021, Tesla Model X crash.
According to the $20 million lawsuit, the officers pulled over a vehicle in the right-hand lane of the Eastex Freeway near East River Road in Montgomery County, Texas, and began searching the vehicle based on suspicion of possession of narcotics.
The lawsuit alleges a 2019 Tesla Model X traveling about 70 mph "plowed into the scene of the police stop."
The Model X crashed into two police Chevy Tahoes that had their flashing emergency lights activated, pushing the vehicles into the officers and the detained suspect.
The plaintiffs allege the Tesla Model X had Autopilot engaged when the crash occurred yet the technology failed to "see" the emergency lights and failed to apply automatic emergency braking.
"The Tesla was completely unable to detect the existence of at least four vehicles, six people and a German Shepherd fully stopped in the lane of traffic. The Tahoes were declared a total loss." — Tesla Autopilot lawsuit
The five officers blame not only Tesla's Autopilot for the crash, but also named as a defendant is Pappasito's Cantina where the Tesla driver allegedly "consumed alcohol to the point where he was obviously intoxicated, and he presented a clear danger to himself and others."
The lawsuit alleges that while "the driver was obviously intoxicated, Pappasito's Cantina continued to serve alcohol to him."
Although the lawsuit alleges all the officers were "badly injured," a Montgomery County Precinct 4 Constable’s spokesman told local media the officers went to the hospital and were cleared.
The spokesman said some of the officers were sore and suffered soft-tissue injuries, but none were seriously injured, and K9 Kodiak was checked out by a vet and cleared.
The allegedly drunk driver of the Tesla Model X, 47-year-old Michael Minh Le, was uninjured but charged with intoxication assault. Le is not named as a defendant in the lawsuit.
The driver of the original vehicle which had been stopped by deputies was seriously injured in the crash.
The Montgomery County Tesla crash is one of the incidents currently being investigated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Federal safety regulators opened the investigation into why Tesla vehicles on Autopilot fail to avoid obvious blinking lights of emergency vehicles.
At least 12 Tesla crashes are under investigation, and after opening the probe the government requested information from 12 additional automakers concerning similar driver-assistance systems.
The Tesla Model X Autopilot lawsuit was filed in the Harris County District Court of Texas: Fields, et al., vs. Tesla, Inc., et al.
The plaintiffs are represented by the Buzbee Law Firm and Muery & Farrell.