A Santa Barbara mother who says she was pinned against the wall of her garage by her 2018 Tesla Model X, seconds after her 2-year-old son jumped into the driver’s seat, has filed a lawsuit against the automaker alleging a design flaw.
In a statement from an Orange County law firm announcing the suit, plaintiff Mallory Harcourt alleges the vehicle fails to “include proper safety control devices to ensure the vehicle isn’t unintentionally operated,” citing an incident that happened in her garage on Dec. 27, 2018, when she was eight months pregnant.
According to the lawsuit, Harcourt, 31, parked her three-day-old Tesla in her driveway and turned the motor off. With the falcon doors open, she took her son and then her groceries out of the SUV. She then walked toward her garage, with her son a few steps behind.
“The two-year-old runs back, climbs into the driver’s seat, and as Mrs. Harcourt turns back, calling her son from the vehicle, the 5,500-pound SUV accelerates toward her,” the statement reads.
Harcourt was allegedly “lifted, carried into the garage, slammed against the wall and pinned,” by her Tesla.
She suffered a cracked pelvis in three places and a broken leg.
“I was trapped and had to scream until someone heard me and came for help,” Harcourt said in the statement. “My toddler learned how to start and operate the Tesla faster than an adult can open a childproof bottle. We could have died, the public needs to know.”
Alison Gokal, an attorney with the Foothill Ranch-based Gokal Law Group, said the law firm initially asked Tesla to issue a formal advisory and make safety modifications to the Tesla Model X’s start-and-drive functionality.
Gokal said Tesla instead responded to Harcourt’s incident in a letter that said the SUV “responded to the operator’s inputs, as designed.”
The law firm provided a copy of the March 11 response letter, signed by Tesla general counsel Ryan A. McCarthy.
“We regret that this incident happened, however, we have not found any other instance of this sequence of events occurring — an unsupervised child manages to successfully shift the vehicle into gear and then apply the accelerator pedal — and we do not believe it reasonably foreseeable,” McCarthy wrote.
Gokal called Tesla’s response “outrageous,” and said her client is terrified a similar incident will happen to another family.
Harcourt said she gave birth to a premature baby because of the trauma, and said her young son was also traumatized and required therapy.
In response to a request for comment on the lawsuit, a Tesla representative sent KTLA a copy of the letter that Gokal sent to the automaker on Feb. 21 – apparently the correspondence to which the Tesla general counsel responded on March 11.
Gokal wrote that Harcourt’s son had “lodged himself between the accelerator and the driver’s seat, pulled the gear lever and accelerated directly into mom.”