In a federal complaint filed Thursday in the Central District of California, Tesla owner Roy Wiseman says that he lost control of his Tesla Model X this past April after he slowed down navigating a curve in icy conditions while driving on State Route 36 East between Martin and Chester, California. Wiseman says Tesla’s regenerative braking system kicked in but failed to coast, sending his car off the road and down a mountainside. Crashing into trees and branches, Wiseman was allegedly left stranded in his wrecked Tesla for over an hour.
Wiseman’s attorneys at the Margarian Law Firm say their client was lucky to escape with only minor injuries. The firm is seeking $2.3 billion in damages for a proposed class of Tesla owners.
“The regenerative braking systems used in both the Model S and Model X create a substantial risk for the vehicles to lose control in snowy conditions,” the complaint states. “The vehicle’s automatic regenerative braking system makes the vehicles unable to coast.”
This means that drivers risk “losing control on icy roads due to the mandatory braking the vehicle imposes,” according to the complaint.
Tesla did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.
The class claims that most other passenger cars, including the Toyota Prius, activate regenerative braking only when the driver presses the brake pedal, allowing drivers to coast. Regenerative braking on the Tesla, on the other hand, kicks in when a driver takes a foot off the accelerator pedal, Wiseman says.
Tesla tells customers that fixes for issues with its cars’ features, including autosteer up to 90 mph, auto lane change, and automatic emergency braking, are offered through over-the-air software updates, according to the complaint.
“Despite making such a representation to the consumers, Tesla failed to correct the loss of stability caused by regenerative braking through its over-the-air software update system,” the complaint states.
Wiseman says Tesla also did nothing to fix the defect after he reported it.
The class is alleging breach of express warranty, breach of contract and common-law fraud, among other counts, alleging that the defect in all 2012-17 Tesla Model S and 2016-2017 Tesla Model X cars.
Wiseman filed the complaint with the car’s co-owner, Marites Wiseman. They are represented by Hovanes Margarian out of Glendale, California.