San Lorenzo family take legal action against Tesla, blaming autopilot for crash that killed teenage son

SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) – A Bay Area family is suing Tesla over an accident on I-880 that resulted in the death of their 15-year-old son.

Alameda County Superior Court complaint says Tesla’s autopilot “contains flaws and failed to respond to traffic conditions,” according to The New York Times.

The boy’s father, Benjamin Maldonado, was driving them in a van in 2019. They were struck by a Tesla Model 3 after Maldonado changed lanes, according to video footage. The Times reports that the Tesla was traveling at around 60 mph on autopilot and did not slow down “until a fraction of a second before the crash.”

According to court documents reviewed by the NYT, Maldonado saw the Tesla arrive quickly and attempted to return to its original lane, but the impact came too quickly. Maldonado’s lawyer obtained a video of the accident and shared it with the Times, visible here.

Tesla has not responded to allegations of a bad or failing autopilot. Tesla driver and passenger Romeo Lagman Yalung and his wife Vilma are also on trial and have yet to process the complaint in court, reports the Times.

Jovani Maldonado, 15, was one of their two children, residing in San Lorenzo. He dreamed of becoming a professional footballer, his parents told The Times. Benjamin and Jovani were on their way home from a soccer tournament when the fatal accident occurred.

Tesla was involved in another similar lawsuit after a man from Foster City was killed while driving his Tesla in 2018.

Walter Huang, 38, crashed into the edge of a concrete highway while his 2017 Tesla Model X was on autopilot. Investigators from the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board also said Huang was playing a video game on his smartphone at the time of the crash.

NTSB investigators also said the autopilot system became confused at a freeway exit and was a factor in the crash.

“Huang’s Tesla’s navigation system misinterpreted the lane lines on the pavement, did not detect the concrete median and did not brake the car, but instead accelerated the car into the median,” we read in a press release from his family’s lawyers.

Huang allegedly complained about Tesla’s autopilot malfunction before the fatal crash in Mountain View, according to documents released by the NTSB.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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