As reported by Reuters, a Florida judge found “reasonable evidence” that Tesla Inc. CEO Elon Musk and other managers knew the automaker’s vehicles had a defective Autopilot system but still allowed the cars to be driven unsafely, according to a court ruling last week.
Circuit Judge Reid Scott in Palm Beach County ruled the plaintiff in a lawsuit over a fatal crash could proceed to trial and bring punitive damages claims against Tesla for intentional misconduct and gross negligence. The order has not been previously reported.
The judge found evidence Tesla “engaged in a marketing strategy that painted the products as autonomous” and that Musk’s public statements about the technology “had a significant effect on the belief about the capabilities of the products.”
A trial had been set for October but was delayed. A new date has not been set. Tesla has not responded to requests for comment about the judge’s findings.
The judge will be scrutinizing Musk’s tweets about Autopilot capabilities, the ruling suggests. Tesla has won multiple lawsuits in the past regarding its semi-autonomous driving system, but still faces questions over inconsistent messaging and marketing claims versus real-world performance.
This latest case centers around evidence showing possible contradictions between Tesla’s internal knowledge of Autopilot limitations and what it communicated to customers, according to court documents.