Florida jury awards $10.5 million in the case of two teens killed in fiery Tesla crash

Cecilia Nysing

A federal jury in Florida has found Tesla negligent in a 2018 crash that killed two teens and found one of the teens 90% responsible for his role in the collision.

The jury awarded $10.5 million in damages. It was not immediately clear how much of that amount Tesla will be required to pay based on the assignment of responsibility for the crash.

Plaintiff James Riley alleged Tesla was responsible for the death of his son, 18-year-old Barrett, and Barrett’s friend because batteries installed in the 2014 Model S sedan the teen was driving ignited after the electric car crashed in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. while traveling at 116 mph.

Riley said Barrett and the other crash victim, 18-year-old Edgar Monserratt Martinez, initially survived the collision when the Tesla’s airbags deployed but died after the car caught fire.

Riley also claimed a Tesla technician had, without his consent, removed a speed limiter the family had installed on the car. 

Right side of car, showing severe crash and fire damage from the 2018 crash of a Tesla Model S.NTSB

Tesla countered that the speed limiter could not have prevented the crash at the speed the teens were traveling at, and that Riley failed to establish that the battery was defective. 

In its verdict, the jury placed the majority of the blame for the crash on Barrett, who investigators said was driving 116 mph into a 25-mph curve before the collision. Barrett had a history of speeding, having been ticketed just two months before the deadly crash for traveling at 112 mph. The jury placed 9% of the blame on James Riley himself.

“We are pleased that, in what we understand to be the first case to go to trial against Tesla involving an accident involving one of their vehicles, the jury found Tesla to have been negligent in removing the speed limiter without letting Mr. or Mrs. Riley know,” an attorney for the Rileys said in a statement.

Another family recently hired a prominent Florida personal injury firm following a crash of a 2015 Tesla Model S earlier this month that killed two people.


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