Walter Huang’s Tesla went up in flames on southbound U.S. Highway 101 in Mountain View on March 23. (ABC7 News)
SAN FRANCISCO — The family of Apple engineer Walter Huang, who died March 23 in a Tesla car crash, has hired the Minami Tamaki LLP law firm to explore legal options for them.
Huang died from fatal injuries suffered when the “Autopilot” of his 2017 Tesla Model X drove his car into the unprotected edge of a concrete highway median that was missing its crash guard.
The firm’s preliminary review has uncovered complaints by other Tesla drivers of navigational errors by the Autopilot feature, and other lawsuits have also made this complaint. The firm believes Tesla’s Autopilot feature is defective and likely caused Huang’s death, despite Tesla’s apparent attempt to blame the victim.
The Huang family intends to file a wrongful death lawsuit against Tesla and, possibly, its subcontractors involved in the design and construction of the Autopilot system. The grounds for the suit may include product liability, defective product design, failure to warn, breach of warranty, intentional and negligent misrepresentation, and false advertising. The family may also file a lawsuit against the California Department of Transportation for dangerous condition of public property.
“Mrs. Huang lost her husband, and two children lost their father,” said B. Mark Fong, a partner at Minami Tamaki LLP. “The family wants to investigate this incident and help ensure that this tragedy does not happen to other consumers who buy semi-autonomous vehicles. Our goal as the family’s attorneys is to protect public safety, by ensuring the technology behind semi-autonomous cars is safe before it is released on the roads, and its risks are not misrepresented to the public.”
Minami Tamaki’s preliminary review indicates that the navigation system of the Tesla may have misread the lane lines on the roadway, failed to detect the concrete median, failed to brake the car, and drove the car into the median. In addition, the concrete highway median was missing its crash attenuator guard, as Caltrans failed to replace the guard after an earlier crash there. The lack of a guard potentially increased Huang’s injuries.
Huang is survived by his wife of ten years, Sevonne, and their son and daughter, ages 3 and 6. He was a loving father to his children, a devoted husband, and a dedicated son who supported his elderly parents financially.
If you or someone you know has information relating to Tesla’s Autopilot or the incident involving Huang, contact Fong at email@example.com or (415) 851-1497. For more information about this case, visit http://minamitamaki.com/huang.
In a statement sent to ABC7 News, Tesla said:
“We are very sorry for the family’s loss.
“According to the family, Mr. Huang was well aware that Autopilot was not perfect and, specifically, he told them it was not reliable in that exact location, yet he nonetheless engaged Autopilot at that location. The crash happened on a clear day with several hundred feet of visibility ahead, which means that the only way for this accident to have occurred is if Mr. Huang was not paying attention to the road, despite the car providing multiple warnings to do so.
“The fundamental premise of both moral and legal liability is a broken promise, and there was none here. Tesla is extremely clear that Autopilot requires the driver to be alert and have hands on the wheel. This reminder is made every single time Autopilot is engaged. If the system detects that hands are not on, it provides visual and auditory alerts. This happened several times on Mr. Huang’s drive that day.
“We empathize with Mr. Huang’s family, who are understandably facing loss and grief, but the false impression that Autopilot is unsafe will cause harm to others on the road. NHTSA found that even the early version of Tesla Autopilot resulted in 40 percent fewer crashes and it has improved substantially since then. The reason that other families are not on TV is because their loved ones are still alive.”