Tesla to Face Litigation Over Fatal 2018 Accident

May 10, 2022 / 6:25 am

Up until recently, Tesla has not been subject to much noteworthy litigation. That is set to change. A Florida judge has recently decided that, despite Tesla’s request for dismissal, a case involving deaths potentially resulting from a design flaw in a Tesla vehicle can move forward.

The Background of Tesla’s Upcoming Jury Trial

In 2018, 18-year-old Barrett Riley was driving his father’s Tesla Model S when he reached a speed of 116 mph. Accompanying Riley was his friend, Edgar.

At some point, Riley lost control of the vehicle and crashed into a residential concrete wall in Fort Lauderdale. Upon colliding with the wall, the vehicle caught fire, resulting in the deaths of both Riley and his friend.

Riley’s father, James, took legal action, filing a product liability suit in Florida federal court approximately two years after the accident occurred. According to Riley’s suit, there is reason to believe his son would have survived the crash had the vehicle’s lithium-ion batteries not caught fire. The suit is based on the belief that the batteries caught fire as a result of a defect.

Additionally, James Riley alleges that his wife had asked for a speed-limiting device to be installed, but that it had been removed from the vehicle. This speed limiting device would have prevented the vehicle from traveling at speeds in excess of 85 mph. Curt Miner, an attorney with Colson Hicks Eidson who is representing the family, has stated “We very much look forward to proceeding to trial in this important case against Tesla.”

Tesla’s Response

Tesla’s initial reaction to the suit was to request that it be dismissed. This request was not granted. U.S. Magistrate Judge Alicia Valle determined there was sufficient evidence indicating Tesla negligently removed or handled the speed limiting device and that the battery genuinely was defective or improperly designed.

Tesla also argued that the speed limiting device was removed upon the request of Barrett Riley himself. Additionally, the company has argued that it is not uncommon for vehicles to catch fire when they are involved in collisions. Tesla’s argument is that the family has not offered any proof that a defect was the cause of the fire that resulted from this particular crash.

However, the Magistrate Judge found that Tesla had allowed the speed limiting device to be removed without the consent of Barrett Riley’s parents. They also had not been provided with notice that the speed limiter had been removed.

To illustrate to a jury that the battery in their Model S was defective, the Rileys have retained the services of an expert who will testify that the absence of certain fire-retardant materials allowed the fire to spread and claim the lives of both Riley and his friend Edgar. It is worth noting that the National Transportation Safety Board reviewed the accident and arrived at the conclusion that the two young men lost their lives due to the fire and not necessarily the crash. A passenger in the rear of the vehicle who was not wearing their seatbelt was ejected as a result of the collision, but they survived despite sustaining multiple fractures.

Contact a Miami Car Accident Attorney

Tragedies such as this serve as reminders that car designers and manufacturers must be held accountable when design flaws result in harm or death. If you have been involved in a motor vehicle accident that you believe may have been caused by a defect or design flaw, get in touch with a Miami car accident attorney at Colson Hicks Eidson to discuss pursuing any compensation for which you may be eligible. Contact us online or call us at 305-476-7400 to schedule your case review.

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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.

Organizing Committee Appointee  Stephanie Casey formally honored by Judge Altman

MIAMI (September 9, 2023) –  Colson Hicks Eidson, a multilingual complex civil and commercial litigation law firm based in Miami, FL, today congratulated Stephanie A. Casey for her leadership as an ad-hoc organizer of the Florida Southern District’s 6th Biennial Bench and Bar Conference. She was recognized formally by Judge Roy Altman for her remarkable service at the event in Miami Beach on September 9, 2023. 

The Bench and Bar Conference of the Southern District – a collaborative effort between the US District Court and the South Florida Chapters of the Federal Bar Association – brought together legal professionals, judges, and experts in a sold-out event, attracting more than 1,000 attendees. Casey played a pivotal role in organizing this prestigious gathering, which featured a day-long program of engaging panel discussions with esteemed judges, legal experts, and members of the Southern District of Florida’s Bench and Bar.

One of the highlights of the conference was the “Supreme Court Roundup,” featuring distinguished speakers Miguel A. Estrada and Neal Katyal. Additionally, a thought-provoking panel discussion marked the 60th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s landmark Gideon v. Wainwright decision, with Yale Law Professor Akhil Reed Amar, the Honorable Kathleen M. Williams, and the Honorable Robert N. Scola, Jr. 

“We are immensely proud of our partner Stephanie Casey for her exceptional contributions to the 6th Biennial Bench and Bar Conference,” Senior Partner Curt Miner said. “Her leadership and commitment to advancing the legal profession are exactly in line with our firm values, and we look forward to her continued success.”

Casey was appointed to the Southern District’s Bench and Bar Committee by Chief Judge Cecilia M. Altonaga in May 2022.  

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.


MIAMI – Colson Hicks Eidson today announced that seven of its lawyers are included in the 2024 edition of The Best Lawyers in America. The recognitions are in a wide variety of fields, including Bet-the-Company and Personal Injury Litigation, as well as Criminal Defense: White-Collar.

“The firm is honored that Best Lawyers again recognizes the majority of our attorneys for their exceptional work and dedication to our clients,” said Dean C. Colson, Managing Partner of Colson Hicks Eidson.

Best Lawyers lists of outstanding lawyers are developed through peer review surveys where tens of thousands of lawyers evaluate their professional peers. The seven Colson Hicks Eidson attorneys recognized by Best Lawyers are:

Stephanie A. Casey
Commercial Litigation

Dean C. Colson
Bet-the-Company Litigation
Commercial Litigation
Personal Injury Litigation – Plaintiffs
Product Liability Litigation – Plaintiffs
Professional Malpractice Law – Defendants
Professional Malpractice Law – Plaintiffs

Lewis S. Eidson
Mass Tort Litigation / Class Actions – Plaintiffs
Product Liability Litigation – Plaintiffs

Julie Braman Kane
Commercial Litigation
Medical Malpractice Law – Plaintiffs
Personal Injury Litigation – Plaintiffs

Joseph J. Kalbac
Commercial Litigation
Insurance Law
Mass Tort Litigation / Class Actions – Plaintiffs
Personal Injury Litigation – Plaintiffs
Product Liability Litigation – Plaintiffs

Roberto Martinez
Bet-the-Company Litigation
Commercial Litigation
Criminal Defense: White-Collar

Curtis B. Miner
Commercial Litigation
Criminal Defense: White-Collar
Personal Injury Litigation – Plaintiffs

“Six of our attorneys have been recognized by Best Lawyers for more than a decade and we are excited to welcome Stephanie Casey as our newest addition to the list,” said Colson.

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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.

Miami (June 6, 2023) – 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 third year in a row. In addition, five of the Miami-based firm’s attorneys were also ranked individually.

“These rankings are a testament to the dedication and perseverance of our lawyers and our firm’s ability to handle a wide array of cases on behalf of our clients,” said the managing partner of Colson Hicks Eidson, Dean Colson. “As the South Florida business community expands and changes, we’re excited to continue serving new clients with the same spirit of excellence we developed when the firm first opened more than 50 years ago.”

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

The rankings are a result of the firm’s exceptional track record of securing multi-million-dollar judgments and settlements for its clients in areas that include commercial litigation, medical malpractice, products liability, class actions, multi-district litigation, and aviation and automobile accidents. Notably, in the past year, Colson Hicks Eidson secured judgments against four major cruise lines totaling almost half-billion dollars that were the first ever obtained in any case brought under Title III of the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act of 1996 (the LIBERTAD Act). In those cases, Carnival, MSC Cruises, Royal Caribbean, and Norwegian Cruise Lines were found liable for trafficking in the Havana Port Terminal that the Castro government illegally confiscated from the U.S.-owned Havana Docks Corp in 1960. Each cruise line is required to pay Havana Docks approximately $112 million.

The firm’s recent work also ranged from being part of the team of lawyers that secured over $1 billion in settlements for the families of the victims of the Champlain Towers South Condominium collapse to a $5 million jury verdict against Chen Neighborhood Medical Centers of South Florida LLC for failing to accurately diagnose breast cancer in a patient.

“We are proud to receive this recognition as one of the country’s leading trial firms,” said Roberto Martínez. “Our firm is committed to seeking justice in complex legal matters across the world and improving the lives of our clients,” added Curtis Miner.

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.

North Carolina (April 20, 2023) – Pennsylvania attorney Robert Mongeluzzi, a Saltz Mongeluzzi Bendesky founder, has been dubbed in the press as “the master of disasters.” He sends a 45-minute videotape consisting of case-specific liability and damages to the decision maker at the defendant’s insurance company.

“The decision maker is rarely in the room at a settlement conference or the mediation,” Mongeluzzi said. “They’re usually in some corporate tower in Chicago, New York or London. But the one time I know I can talk to them is when we have a settlement film.”

Florida attorney Curtis Mine, a Colson Hicks Eidson partner and an expert in structured settlements, said the Sunshine State “punches above its weight” in consolidating multidistrict litigation and class actions.

“The average time for completion of a civil lawsuit from filing to completion, in past years, the Southern District of Florida is ranked first or second in the country,” Miner said. “As the stakes increase, the defense strength increase.”

While both attorneys litigate differently and in different states, they both share a common thread: They routinely obtain so-called nuclear settlements and practice among the six states, including California, Florida, New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

The states account for nearly 65% of the nuclear verdicts, per a U.S. Chamber of Commerce Institute for Legal Reform report.

“Nuclear settlements are a function of nuclear verdicts, and a recognition that going to trial is a risky proposition—both before and now,” said Lee Teichner, a partner at the Am Law 100 firm Holland & Knight.

Nuclear settlements, according to Robert Tyson, managing partner at Tyson & Mendes in San Diego, California, are either more than $10 million or are settlements in which non-economic damages, like pain and suffering, greatly exceed economic damages, such as medical bills.

Tyson explained to defense lawyers how to avoid runaway jury verdicts in his book, “Nuclear Verdicts: Defending Justice for All.”

This year, Tyson plans to publish a sequel with a more data-driven approach to the subject. Tyson has also developed software that uses artificial intelligence to advise insurance companies which of their cases is likely to end in nuclear verdicts.

Focus on Federal Appellate Courts
Thomas R. Kline, a founding partner of Kline & Specter in Pennsylvania, has taught at several law schools, including the Drexel University Thomas Kline School of Law. Kline routinely obtains these nuclear settlements, but objects to the name as a defense bar tactic.

Kline said there are restrictions placed in various states, which prevent jurors from returning eight-figure verdicts, which in turn prevents the lawyers from obtaining an eight-figure settlement. It is an example of the effort by insurance companies or governmental entities to restrict the damages that can be claimed and recovered.

“There’s a ‘Look what Texas is doing’ and then they try to do that in another state,” Kline said. “But each of these settlements are driven by the law in the state in which it is drawn. You can only change it in two ways: convince the highest appeals court or the legislature to change the law.”

And the stakes are high, as Miner of Colson Hicks said that future rulings by the federal appellate courts could change whether nuclear settlements continue to thrive in those six states in which nuclear verdicts abound.

Miner pointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit—an outlier—which entered a ruling last week on what class representative incentive awards are allowed.

The Eleventh Circuit reversed a nearly $10 million settlement over the brain performance supplement Neuriva after finding a class member had standing to object.

The Eleventh Circuit ruling affirmed the precedent set in Johnson v. NPAS Solutions.

The appellate court held that incentive awards for class action representatives that compensate them for their time and reward them for bringing lawsuits are prohibited.

Miner cited the recent trend of success in appeals of settlements based on standing as an example of what could drive defense reform if the concept spreads outside of the Eleventh Circuit.

The result could affect where nuclear verdicts are heard and thereby, without the threat of trial, alter the jurisdiction in which attorneys obtain nuclear settlements.

“The ruling could disincentivize potential victims of consumer fraud or consumer deceptive conduct, participating in class actions,” Miner said. “They may just say, ‘Well, I just don’t want to have to put in that kind of time to do it if there’s nothing for it.”