Tesla CEO Elon Musk will not be required to testify in a lawsuit alleging that the company’s Autopilot system caused the death of Apple software engineer Walter Huang in a fatal Model X crash in 2018.
At a hearing on Thursday, Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Evette Pennypacker granted Tesla’s request to shield Musk from being questioned. The Judge noted, however, that Tesla must provide written responses to questions posed by the legal team of the deceased driver’s family, especially about the claims Tesla and Musk have made about Autopilot.
As per Judge Pennypacker, the family of the ill-fated Model X driver should adopt “less intrusive” ways to acquire the information it needs to build its case. The family’s legal team must do this before it pushes the Tesla CEO to take the witness stand, the Judge noted.
Doris Cheng, a lawyer representing the deceased’s family, has argued that there is no way to know if there was data backing Musk’s public statements about Autopilot’s capabilities unless the CEO himself is deposed. Cheng noted that former and current Tesla engineers who have taken the stand have been unable to answer queries at the heart of the negligence claims in the lawsuit, as noted in a Bloomberg News report.
At the hearing, Tesla’s attorney, Tom Branigan, noted that the claims of the plaintiff’s legal team are “simply not correct.” Branigan argued that Tesla engineers have been deposed for several hours, and they have answered inquiries “from A to Z on the design and development of Autopilot.”
The Huang case is scheduled for trial on July 31. If the Huang case’s trial proceeds before the case of Jeremy Banner, a Model 3 driver who passed away in 2019 while using Autopilot and whose trial is earmarked for summer, it will be the first trial involving an Autopilot crash.
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