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McCune Wright Arevalo, LLP (MWA), a California law firm that specializes in defective products, is representing eight Tesla owners who say their various Telsa models have experienced sudden uncommanded acceleration (SUA), according to a press release.
"We understand and respect Tesla's role as an innovator in the automobile industry, particularly its leading role in reducing the automobile industry's dependence on fossil fuels, MWA partner David C. Wright said in a statement. "Tesla's commitment to environmental innovation is why many consumers put their trust in the Tesla brand. But that means Tesla has a responsibility not to betray that trust and put consumers at risk."
"We are particularly disturbed that Tesla, a company with a progressive reputation in so many ways, has nevertheless reverted to the 'blame-the-driver' strategy when it comes to the SUA incidents alleged in the complaint, while consistently refusing to disclose the vehicle data on which Tesla claims to rely. Unfortunately, our clients concluded that the only way Tesla would listen to and respect their concerns was to file this lawsuit," he added.
The lawsuit comes after the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) on Jan. 13 opened its review of a petition, which cites 127 consumer complaints and 123 individual vehicles, calling for an investigation into 500,000 Tesla vehicles with potential unintended acceleration issues.
"This petition is completely false and was brought by a Tesla short-seller," Tesla said in a statement Tuesday. "We investigate every single incident where the driver alleges to us that their vehicle accelerated contrary to their input, and in every case where we had the vehicle's data, we confirmed that the car operated as designed. In other words, the car accelerates if, and only if, the driver told it to do so, and it slows or stops when the driver applies the brake."
The owners who submitted the suit through MWA complained about the acceleration issue with versions of the Tesla Model S, the Tesla Model X and the Tesla Model 3, the release notes, which are the same models being reviewed in the NHTSA petition.
"NHTSA has received a defect petition regarding claims of sudden unintended acceleration in certain Tesla Model S, Model X, and Model 3 vehicles," the NHTSA told FOX Business in a statement. "As is the agency’s standard practice in such matters, NHTSA will carefully review the petition and relevant data."
Tesla explained in its statement regarding the petition that the issues these vehicle owners are experiencing are not the result of defective cars but because "the accelerator pedals in Model S, X and 3 vehicles have two independent position sensors, and if there is any error, the system defaults to cut off motor torque," Tesla said.
"Likewise, applying the brake pedal simultaneously with the accelerator pedal will override the accelerator pedal input and cut off motor torque, and regardless of the torque, sustained braking will stop the car," the company added. "Unique to Tesla, we also use the Autopilot sensor suite to help distinguish potential pedal misapplications and cut torque to mitigate or prevent accidents when we’re confident the driver’s input was unintentional."
Several complaints in the petition, however, detail instances in which their Tesla vehicles lurched forward completely on their own. In one instance, a Tesla Model S 85D was closed and locked when it apparently "started accelerating forward towards the street and crashed into a parked car," the driver said, according to Reuters.