Class-Action Suit Filed by Tesla Drivers

Tesla car and charging station | Image by Sheila Fitzgerald

Several Tesla Model S and Model X owners and lessors have recently filed a lawsuit against the electric vehicle manufacturer, alleging that automatic software updates pushed by Elon Musk’s company have significantly diminished the battery life of their electric vehicles.

The class-action lawsuit was announced by the law firm representing the Tesla owners and lessors, Hagens Berman, on May 12. While filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, the complaint claims to represent plaintiffs nationwide.

Over-the-air updates — a technology pioneered by Tesla, which first offered them on its Model S in 2012 — lie at the heart of the complaint.

The lawsuit claims that not only do Tesla’s automatic software updates occur without consumers’ consent, but in the case of certain Model S and Model X EVs, they caused a significant decline in battery function.

The plaintiffs reported a 20% decrease in driving range, rendering the EV inoperable, according to the Hagens Berman news release.

Some were forced to pay upwards of $15,000 for a new battery.

Others paid third-party experts up to $750 to reverse the battery-related software updates, according to the documents filed with the court.

“We believe Tesla defrauds consumers and abuses this feature of its vehicles’ design, and it’s time to show Tesla that it’s not above the law,” Steve Berman, the attorney representing the plaintiffs, said, according to the Hagens Berman press release.

Both federal and state laws are cited in the lawsuit.

For instance, the fact that automatic updates are performed without Tesla owners’ consent whenever their vehicles connect to Wi-Fi is deemed to infringe upon the rights of the owners under the Abuse Act and Computer Fraud.

This complaint implies that the impacted Tesla vehicles are “protected computers” under this federal cybersecurity law and that the car maker caused damage or loss.

“At no point during the [update] process does Tesla warn drivers that software updates pushed onto the vehicles will result in the depletion of battery life, which — according to Tesla, are designed to last the life of the vehicle,” the lawsuit claimed.

State laws of California, Michigan, Illinois, and Washington are also referenced in the lawsuit, primarily those related to the prohibition of trespass to chattels or interference with another’s property. These claims hinge on Tesla intentionally causing its customers’ battery problems.

“Unless Tesla is retrained and enjoined, Tesla will continue to commit such acts,” the lawsuit claimed.

Tesla has not yet issued an official response to the lawsuit or the allegations made by the owners, according to Fox 4.

Improving the overall experience for Tesla drivers is said to be the goal of its over-the-air updates, according to its website.

“Tesla vehicles regularly receive over-the-air software updates that add new features and enhance existing ones over Wi-Fi,” per Tesla.

In 2019, a lawsuit was brought against Tesla claiming that a software update led to a 10% decrease in battery function in 2012-2016 Model S vehicles, according to Hagens Berman.

Tesla did not challenge these claims and paid a $1.5 million settlement in 2021. Affected vehicle owners received compensation of $625 each, according to Fox 4.

The suit comes after a series of price cuts at the start of the year resulted in a record increase in demand for Tesla EVs, despite being hotly contested by some investors and historic Tesla owners concerned about resale value.

As The Dallas Express recently reported, Tesla surpassed analysts’ predictions by reaping  $120 million in sales this first quarter. Nonetheless, its stock fell over 8% during the regular trading session.

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