Colson Hicks Eidson Files Wrongful Death Lawsuit Against Tesla On Behalf Of Victim Killed In Fatal Battery Fire In Florida

October 9, 2019 / 4:49 am

The Lawsuit alleges Tesla improperly removed speed limiter device requested by the owner and knowingly failed to install safety measures to prevent the car from engulfing in flames

MIAMI, Fla. (Oct. 9, 2019) – The Miami-based law firm of Colson Hicks Eidson filed a wrongful death and negligence lawsuit against Tesla, Inc. (d/b/a Tesla Motors, Inc.) in the Superior Court of the State of California on behalf of the family of the late Barrett Riley, an 18-year-old high school senior at Pinecrest Academy who died shortly before his graduation in a fatal accident on May 8, 2018 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

According to the Complaint, the accident occurred when the 2014 Tesla Model S vehicle, that Barrett Riley was driving, accelerated to a high rate of speed causing him to lose control of the vehicle, and side-swiped a wall in front of a house on the side of the road. The electric-powered vehicle’s lithium-ion batteries burst into an uncontrollable and fatal fire, killing Barrett Riley and his front seat passenger.

The Complaint asserts that just two months before the accident, Barrett Riley’s parents, James Riley (the registered owner of the vehicle) and his wife, Jenny Riley, requested that Tesla install a speed limiter on the Model S, limiting it to a maximum speed of 85 mph. Mrs. Riley specifically advised Tesla that she wanted the speed limiter installed because their son had recently received a speeding ticket and they wanted to protect his safety.

Tesla installed the speed limiter as the Riley’s requested; however, after the vehicle was taken in for service at Tesla’s Dania Beach service department, the device was removed without Riley’s consent or permission; the removal was never communicated to James Riley, the owner of the vehicle, or his wife, until after the accident.

“As parents, James and Jenny took action to protect their son and trusted Tesla to ensure their vehicles were safe and to honor their request,” said Lewis S. “Mike” Eidson, counsel for the Riley family and partner at Colson Hicks Eidson. “If Tesla would have informed the Riley that they removed the device they had originally installed to protect their son, they would never have permitted their son to drive the vehicle. If the speed limiter had remained in place as the Riley’s instructed, the accident would never have happened, and Barret Riley would be alive today.”

The Complaint additionally asserts that the accident was entirely survivable and that the fire occurred because of the Model S’s design defect in its lithium-ion batteries and battery packs. The airbags deployed and Barrett Riley was essentially uninjured by the impact; however, he was killed by the extraordinarily hot and intense fire that started in the vehicle’s lithium-ion battery cells. According to the autopsy report, Barret Riley had no broken bones, no injuries to his head and no injuries to his body other than the fatal burns.

The lawsuit further alleges that Tesla knew that if the batteries were damaged in a foreseeable accident, they were subject to “thermal runaway” – a phenomenon that could result in a conflagration engulfing the car. In fact, Tesla had even patented a design to prevent thermal runaway before the 2014 Model S was manufactured, but failed to implement it in the plaintiff’s Model S.

“The driver’s side of the vehicle was largely undamaged,” added Curtis B. Miner, co-counsel and partner at Colson Hicks Eidson. “Barret Riley died inside the Model S solely due to the runaway battery fire, which could have been avoided had the proper safety measures been implemented. Tesla was fully aware of the risk of thermal runaway in its lithium-ion batteries.”

Colson Hicks Eidson filed the wrongful death and negligence lawsuit along with co-counsel California-based Walkup, Melodia, Kelly & Schoenberger. The case is James B. Riley v. Tesla, Inc., (d/b/a Tesla Motors, Inc.), No. 19CV356346, filed in the Superior Court of the State of California in the County of Santa Clara.

For more information on this lawsuit, contact Curtis Miner at 305-476-7400.

ABOUT COLSON HICKS EIDSON

The Law Firm of Colson Hicks Eidson is a trial firm with more than 50 years of experience handling local, national and international litigation, and arbitration. Members of the firm have been involved in some of the country’s most high-profile and landmark cases resulting in impactful and precedential rulings. A mid-size firm with a diverse staff comprised of more than 50 percent women and minorities, Colson Hicks Eidson prides itself on a track record of developing future leaders within the legal profession and its civic and community involvement. Members of the firm have held notable positions serving on the boards of prominent institutions, such as the State University System of Florida and the Florida State Board of Education, and holding high-ranking offices, including President of the 60,000-member American Association for Justice; President of the International Academy of Trial Lawyers; President of the Dade County Bar Association; President of the Miami-Dade Florida Association of Women Lawyers; United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida; and Chairman of the Florida Federal Judicial Nominating Commission.

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MIAMI (June 13, 2024) – Colson Hicks Eidson has been recognized as one of the top three trial law firms in Florida in the “Litigation: Mainly Plaintiffs” category by the respected Chambers and Partners USA Legal Guide for the fourth year in a row. In addition, five of the Miami-based firm’s attorneys were also ranked individually.

“These rankings highlight the commitment and hard work of our attorneys, showcasing our firm’s capability to manage diverse cases for our clients,” said Dean Colson. “As the South Florida business landscape evolves, we remain committed to serving new clients while upholding the same standard of excellence that has defined our firm for 55 years.”

Stephanie Casey, Julie Braman Kane, Curtis Miner, Roberto Martínez, and Mike Eidson were all ranked individually for their work in the “Litigation: Mainly Plaintiffs” category. Miner received the top ranking (Band 1) and Eidson was named “Senior Statesperson” in “Litigation: Mainly Plaintiffs.” Martínez was named “Senior Statesperson” in two categories: “Litigation: Mainly Plaintiffs” and “White Collar Crime and Government Investigations.”

The rankings are a result of the firm’s exceptional track record of securing multimillion-dollar judgments and settlements for its clients in areas that include commercial litigation, medical malpractice, products liability, class actions, multidistrict litigation, and aviation and automobile accidents.

To schedule a consultation, do not hesitate to contact an attorney at our law office. We have experience in a wide variety of cases for clients located throughout the nation and around the globe.

About Colson Hicks Eidson

Colson Hicks Eidson is a renowned law firm based in Miami, Florida, that is recognized as one of the top trial firms in the United States. Built on a foundation of over 50 years of dedication forging strong client relationships, Colson Hicks Eidson handles local, national, and international litigation, with cases spanning from Miami, Florida, and throughout the United States, to matters in the Caribbean, Central America, South America, and Europe. Learn more at: www.colson.com.

Colson Hicks Eidson lawyers Thomas Kroeger and Zachary Lipshultz secured a $3 million damages award for a family of four who suffered significant trauma when a defective lithium-ion battery-powered scooter exploded and burned down their townhome. The family lost all of their possessions and endured significant emotional distress after being exposed to the fire and smoke.

On June 21, 2021, the electric scooter sold by Miami-based Defendant Hypertoyz exploded in the family’s foyer, quickly engulfing their home in fire. Everyone managed to escape amid the smoke and fire, but the family’s townhome was gutted in the blaze, destroying their possessions and forcing them to relocate.

A Federal District Court for the Southern District of Florida recently awarded all four family members compensatory damages totaling $3 million.

Colson Hicks Eidson, P.A. and co-counsel BartlettChen LLC filed a complaint on behalf of a three-generation family who experienced a harrowing near-death incident on a United Airlines flight. The event occurred due to a miscommunication between the Captain and First Officer, resulting in the plane suddenly losing altitude and plunging toward the Pacific Ocean, coming within seconds of crashing and subjecting the passengers to extreme G-forces and terror.

The incident took place on Dec. 18, 2022 when three generations of the family boarded United Airlines Flight 1722 from Maui, Hawaii to San Francisco, California after a long-planned family vacation.

Shortly after takeoff during heavy rain, the Captain asked the First Officer to reset the wing flaps, but the First Officer heard “15” instead of “five,” according to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).  The NTSB concluded that the probable cause of the incident was “the flight crew’s failure to manage the airplane’s vertical flightpath, airspeed, and pitch attitude following a miscommunication about the captain’s desired flap setting during the initial climb.”

“To some extent, encounters with bad weather or turbulence are unavoidable when you fly, but no passenger should ever have to endure such a terrifying experience due to pilot error while traveling on a routine commercial flight.” Curtis Miner, Counsel for Plaintiffs said. “Our clients’ entire, three-generation family was subjected to this terrifying, near-miss incident.  We are committed to seeking justice and fair compensation on their behalf.'” Austin Bartlett, Counsel for Plaintiffs, commented: “This nearly catastrophic flight was horrific and traumatic. The Maltz family and all airlines passengers deserve better.”

The complaint was filed in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois where United Airlines is headquartered.

About Colson Hicks Eidson

Colson Hicks Eidson is a boutique litigation firm serving clients in local, national, and international matters. Our multilingual team of highly experienced attorneys is dedicated to providing our clients with top-tier legal representation backed by a commitment to hard work, creative thinking, responsiveness, and professionalism. From our offices in Miami, we have handled a broad range of significant legal matters around the world for over 50 years.

About BartlettChen LLC

Based in Chicago, BartlettChen LLC represents individuals in aviation, wrongful death, and immigration matters across the nation and internationally. Austin Bartlett of BartlettChen has practiced aviation law for more than two decades and brings the unique perspective of a former aviation defense attorney to help victims and their families secure full compensation for their losses.

Colson Hicks Eidson is pleased to announce that nine attorneys have been named in the 2024 Lawdragon 500 Leading Plaintiff Consumer Lawyers. Lawyers for this guide are selected through Lawdragon’s process of independent journalistic research and submissions.  Their selection process emphasizes lawyers who have demonstrated consistent excellence and have made notable impacts in their fields.

Click here to read the full guide.

The Firm’s recognized attorneys are listed below.

About Colson Hicks Eidson

Colson Hicks Eidson is a boutique litigation law firm based in Miami, Florida, serving clients in local, national, and international matters across multiple languages. Practice areas include complex civil and commercial litigation, catastrophic personal injury, medical negligence, product liability, class action, mass tort, and white-collar criminal defense for the most serious and challenging of cases.  Since 1971, the firm and its lawyers have consistently worked to be respected by the state and federal judiciary – securing numerous multimillion-dollar verdicts, judgments, and settlements on behalf of clients. Learn more at www.colson.com.

MIAMI (November 2, 2023) – Colson Hicks Eidson announced today that it has been named in the 2024 list of The Best Law Firms in America. The Miami-based firm has once again received this honor at both the national and metropolitan level. This follows a recent announcement where seven of the firm’s attorneys were named as Best Lawyers in America” for 2024 across a range of fields.

“We strive every day to provide the best possible representation for our clients, and we are honored to continue to receive this recognition for our work,” said Dean C. Colson, Managing Partner of Colson Hicks Eidson.

Best Lawyers, a distinguished peer-review legal publication company, develops The Best Law Firms in America listings through individual lawyer and law firm surveys and firm recognition history. Colson Hicks Eidson is recognized in the following areas.

National Tier 2 (Represents national clients and smaller companies)

  1. Mass Tort Litigation / Class Actions – Plaintiffs

Metropolitan Tier 1 (Scored within a certain percentage of highest-scoring firms in area)

Miami

  1. Bet-the-Company Litigation
  2. Commercial Litigation
  3. Criminal Defense: White-Collar
  4. Mass Tort Litigation / Class Actions – Plaintiffs
  5. Medical Malpractice Law – Plaintiffs
  6. Personal Injury Litigation – Plaintiffs
  7. Product Liability Litigation – Plaintiffs
  8. Insurance Law

Metropolitan Tier 2 (Scored within a certain percentage of the next highest-scoring firms in area)

Miami

  1. Professional Malpractice Law – Defendants
  2. Professional Malpractice Law – Plaintiffs

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About Colson Hicks Eidson

Colson Hicks Eidson is a boutique litigation law firm based in Miami, Florida, serving clients in local, national, and international matters across multiple languages. Practice areas include complex civil and commercial litigation, catastrophic personal injury, medical negligence, product liability, class action, mass tort, and white-collar criminal defense for the most serious and challenging of cases.  Since 1971, the firm and its lawyers have consistently worked to be respected by the state and federal judiciary – securing numerous multimillion-dollar verdicts, judgments, and settlements on behalf of clients. Learn more at www.colson.com.

Colson Hicks Eidson (CHE) is proud to announce its recent involvement in a significant legal matter with statewide implications. Sabrina Saieh, an attorney at CHE, has filed an amicus brief in the First District Court of Appeal in the case of State of Florida, Agency of Health Care Administration v. Alfredo Ivan Murciano, M.D. in support of Dr. Murciano’s brief.

The amicus brief was filed on behalf of CHE senior partner Roberto Martinez, who served on the most recent Florida Constitution Review Commission and was the primary sponsor of an amendment to the Florida Constitution, now found in Article V, Section 21, titled “Judicial Interpretation of Statutes and Rules.” This amendment explicitly prevents courts and Administrative Law Judges (ALJs) from deferring to administrative agencies’ interpretations of state statutes or rules.

The brief urges the First District Court of Appeal to recognize that Article V, Section 21 was added to the Florida Constitution to prevent executive branch agencies, such as the Agency of Health Care Administration (ACHA), from imposing their legal interpretations on the courts and ALJs. The Florida Constitution prohibits ALJs and the courts from accepting mandates from ACHA to adopt their findings of fact or issue orders based on ACHA’s interpretations of statutes and rules that contradict those determined by the ALJs or courts during a de novo review.

This amicus brief underscores CHE’s dedication to defending the integrity of the Florida Constitution and ensuring that judicial interpretation of statutes and rules remains impartial and independent from administrative agencies.