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Family of Tesla driver killed in crash in suburban Delray Beach sues automaker

Posted: 1:31 PM, Aug 01, 2019
Updated: 2019-08-01 18:39:18-04

PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — The family of a man killed in a Tesla crash in suburban Delray Beach earlier this year filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the automaker on Thursday.

The National Transportation Safety Board said a 2018 Tesla Model 3, driven by 50-year-old Jeremy Banner, was in autopilot mode when it collided with a semi truck in the 14000 block of S.R. 7 on March 1.

NTSB investigators said Banner turned on the autopilot feature about 10 seconds before the crash, and the autopilot did not execute any evasive maneuvers to avoid the crash.

On Thursday, attorneys representing Banner's family held a news conference about the family's wrongful death against Tesla, the semi truck driver, and the trucking company he worked for.

The law firm of Lytal, Reiter, Smith, Ivey & Fronrath said the autopilot system on Banner's Tesla was defective, which resulted in his death.

"There's no question at all it was defective," said attorney Trey Lytal. "It did not work properly. In fact, it did not work at all."

Lytal said there have been numerous cases around the country of the autopilot systems in Tesla vehicles not working correctly, causing accidents and injuries.

"We cannot have technology and sales take over safety," said Lytal.

The Tesla was traveling 68 miles per hour at the time of the crash, according to the NTSB.

The Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office said the semi truck pulled into the path of the Tesla, and the Tesla's roof was sheared off as it passed underneath the semi. Banner died at the scene.

Tesla said in a statement that Banner did not use autopilot at any other time during the drive before the crash. Vehicle logs showed he took his hands off the steering wheel immediately after activating autopilot, the statement said.

Tesla also said it's saddened by the crash and that drivers have traveled more than 1 billion miles while using autopilot.

"When used properly by an attentive driver who is prepared to take control at all times, drivers supported by Autopilot are safer than those operating without assistance," the company said in a statement.

"I hope that we can correct this problem," said Lytal, who added his law firm has not been in contact with Tesla.

The NTSB said its investigation is ongoing.

WPTV and the Associated Press contributed to this report.