June 25, 2020

A Maryland woman who suffered traumatic brain injuries in a 2019 accident sued Tesla Inc. in California state court Wednesday alleging it manufactured an unsafe Model 3 vehicle with airbags that didn't properly deploy.

Kristian Edwards and her husband, Jason Edwards, allege Tesla designed and manufactured an "unreasonably dangerous" Model 3 vehicle with defective airbag and occupant restraint systems, despite Tesla's widely publicized claims that it "engineered the Model 3 to be the safest car ever built."

The suit stems from a July 1, 2019, accident on I-95 in Maryland during which the driver of another vehicle failed to maintain her lane and hit the Edwardses' Model 3 vehicle on the passenger side, causing it to crash into a guardrail before coming to rest on the median. The suit was filed in Alameda County Superior Court in California where Tesla's headquarters is located.

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The suit faults Tesla for overhyping the safety features on the Model 3 and setting a consumer expectation that was not met during the accident.

"The subject Model 3 did not perform as safely as an ordinary consumer would have expected it to perform when used or misused in an intended or reasonably foreseeable way, including, but not limited to, its airbags not deploying and/or its front passenger seat belt not properly restraining plaintiff Kristian Edwards," the suit said.

Tesla has boasted that the Model 3 "achieves the lowest probability of injury of any vehicle ever tested by [the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration]" and that "NHTSA's data shows that vehicle occupants are less likely to get seriously hurt in crashes when in a Model 3 than in any other car," according to the complaint.

The company has also proclaimed that "the Model 3 has a shot at being the safest car ever tested" and that "Tesla is deeply committed to safety, which is why Tesla engineered the Model 3 to be the safest car ever built," according to the suit.

The Edwardses contend the Model 3 had a number of defective or glitchy features, including faulty airbag sensors and supplemental restraint and passenger restraint systems.

They've asserted various claims for strict liability, design defect, failure to warn, negligence and loss of consortium.

"We believe that the vehicle is not crashworthy and it's not safe and that's evident by what happened in this accident," the couple's attorney Ted Leopold of Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC told Law360 Thursday. "This is one of the first pure crashworthiness cases against Tesla, and we look forward to uncovering the design and manufacturing process of testing and safety analysis."

The Edwardses are represented by Theodore J. Leopold, Leslie M. Kroeger, Adam J. Langino and Poorad Razavi of Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC.

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