In a recent legal decision, a California judge has ruled that a group of Tesla owners seeking to initiate a class action lawsuit against the company over allegations of misleading claims about Autopilot capabilities must pursue their claims through individual arbitration rather than in a court of law.
This ruling carries significant implications for both Tesla and the owners involved, as it precludes them from forming a collective class to collectively address their grievances, thereby providing Tesla with a substantial legal advantage.
U.S. District Judge Haywood Gilliam, in his ruling, cited the fact that the Tesla owners who initiated the proposed class action had previously agreed to resolve any legal disputes through arbitration when they accepted Tesla's terms and conditions during the purchase of Autopilot via the company's website, according to Reuters. Although one plaintiff had not signed an arbitration agreement, the judge determined that this individual had delayed too long before filing a lawsuit.
The owners' complaint centered on allegations that Tesla had repeatedly made false statements regarding the capabilities of its advanced driver assistance systems. They expressed particular concern that Tesla had consistently suggested it was on the cusp of delivering fully autonomous vehicles.
These assurances had reportedly influenced their decisions to invest thousands of dollars in additional features when purchasing their vehicles. However, the plaintiffs contended that Tesla's technology had failed to live up to these promises, resulting in accidents, injuries, and even fatalities due to its perceived unreliability.
Despite being aware of their prior agreements to engage in arbitration, the owners argued that these agreements were unenforceable. Judge Gilliam, in his decision, rejected this argument.
This ruling comes at a time when another lawsuit is unfolding, alleging that Autopilot was an experimental technology unfit for public sale. This particular case revolves around a Tesla Model 3 driver in California whose vehicle veered off the road, with the plaintiffs claiming Autopilot was responsible for the incident.