The parents of a Florida teen who died in a fiery high-speed crash in a Tesla Model S last May are suing the automaker, alleging a Tesla service technician removed a speed limiter device without their consent.
Edgar Monserratt and Esperanza Martinez, the parents of 18-year-old Edgar Monserratt Martinez, claim the speed limiter could have prevented the deadly crash. The driver, 18-year-old Barrett Riley, also died in the crash.
According to the lawsuit, Barrett Riley’s parents had a speed limiter installed on the Tesla Model S that prevented the car from going over 85 mph. They had the speed limiter installed after Barrett was cited for driving 112 mph.
Between March 29 and April 3, the Riley family’s Tesla was serviced at Tesla’s Bahia Beach service center. The lawsuit claims that a Tesla technician removed the speed limiter and that the family was never told of its removal.
On May 8, Barrett Riley was driving the Tesla on Fort Lauderdale’s Seabreeze Boulevard with Edgar Martinez as a passenger. The car was racing at a speed of 116 mph when it rounded a curve and spun out of control. The 2014 Tesla Model S slammed into a brick wall twice and hit a light pole. The car burst into an intense fire that was quickly fueled by the electric car’s lithium-ion battery cells.
In addition to alleging the crash wouldn’t have happened had the speed limiter not been removed, the Martinez lawsuit also faults Tesla for not taking adequate measures to prevent the intense battery fires its lithium-ion cells can generate.
A lawyer for the family told Business Insider that Tesla didn’t use a patent it was awarded in 2012 that could have reduced the fire’s intensity. He said had the technology been implemented in the car, the fire wouldn’t have been so difficult for firefighters to extinguish and the teens might have gotten out on time instead of becoming “stuck in an inferno.”
According to the lawsuit, the crashed Tesla’s lithium-ion battery caught fire a second time at the storage yard where the vehicle was stashed after the crash.
“The Vehicle … was defective when it left the possession of the defendant, Tesla, and was in a condition that was unreasonably dangerous to foreseeable users,” the lawsuit claims.