Lommatzsch v. Tesla et al states that Service King had worked on the Model S before the car crashed into a stopped Unified Fire Authority mechanic’s truck on May 11. The lawsuit doesn’t state how the work improperly affected the vehicle, which was in Autopilot during the crash. Plaintiff Heather Lommatzsch sued Tesla as well.
“During the year leading up to the subject accident, Defendant Service King provided service to the Tesla Model S and had replaced a sensor on the Tesla Model S,” the lawsuit states.
“… Service King owed a duty of care to Plaintiff while testing, maintaining, servicing, and/or repairing the Tesla Model S.
“Defendant Service King breached the duty of care by negligently testing, maintaining, servicing, and/or repairing the Tesla Model S.”
The South Jordan Police Department, however, cited Lommatzch for failing to keep a proper lookout while driving.
“The driver of the Tesla Model S … was subsequently interviewed by the South Jordan Police and said that she had been using the ‘Autopilot’ feature in the Tesla,” South Jordan police wrote in a news release. “While Tesla’s Autopilot feature indicates that a driver must be attentive at all times, the driver admitted that she was looking at her phone prior to the collision. Based upon witness information, the driver of the Tesla did not brake or take any action to avoid the collision.”
Service King had not responded to an email request Friday for comment by its personnel or counsel. Companies typically refrain from discussing pending litigation themselves.
But in Service King’s defense, we note again that the lawsuit lacks specifics on what error Service King is alleged to have made during the repair. The complaint just says Service King fixed the car, declares the shop to have been negligent, and calls it a day without connecting the dots to the crash.
Federal regulators also have launched their own independent inquiry into the incident, though the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration hasn’t yet responded to a Monday inquiry into its status or if Service King was examined. The body shop wasn’t mentioned in the police news release regarding the collision; a spokesman did not reply to a Friday email inquiry asking if local authorities investigated the repairer’s work.
Litigation or regulatory scrutiny related to such crashes might be unavoidable even if shops do everything right — and right now, there’s no evidence that Service King delivered anything but the correct repair.
Therefore, it will be critical that repairers dot their Is and cross their Ts when repairing any vehicle with advanced driver assistance systems — particularly ones drawing the kind of attention as Tesla’s Autopilot. Deviate from OEM repair procedures at your own peril. After all, your inevitable OEM co-defendant has an incentive to clear its own name by checking whether your shop’s failure to follow repair procedures compromised vehicle systems.
These aren’t just concerns for Tesla-certified shops. For example, Nissan sells ProPILOT Assist, which is its version of Autopilot. Cadillac’s CT6 offers the truly hands-off “Super Cruise” technology.
The stakes for shops could grow even higher if the NHTSA, the National Transportation Safety Board or trial attorneys ever take a look at crashes involving less sexy ADAS technology.
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