Elon Musk has lodged an appeal with a Florida state appeals court to prevent a judge’s order requiring his deposition in a wrongful death lawsuit. Tesla’s legal team argues that, as a corporate leader, Musk should be safeguarded from the “harassing and burdensome” efforts of plaintiffs’ lawyers seeking to depose him.
While Musk himself is not a party to the lawsuit or the appeal, his communications are a focal point of the case. Following the tragic death of an 18-year-old driver in a 2018 crash involving a Model S, Musk contacted the victim’s family. Consequently, a court order was granted in July, permitting the family to question Musk for a maximum of 60 minutes regarding specific comments he allegedly made about Tesla technology tied to the accident. (via Reuters)
The circumstances leading to the lawsuit revolve around a fatal 2018 crash in which the driver was operating the Model S at 116mph (187km/h) on a curve with a 25mph (40km/h) limit. Allegations from the driver’s family assert that a Tesla technician disabled a speed “limiter” without their consent, which should have capped the car’s speed at 85mph (137km/h).
Tesla has consistently denied these claims, placing the blame on the driver’s “reckless” behavior. Musk’s involvement hinges on his interactions with the family and the comments he made. Musk’s legal team contends that he has only extended his condolences to the grieving family.
However, during the course of a deposition, the driver’s father recalled Musk stating “perhaps we should not have removed the limiter” and suggesting that Tesla would need to “review and revise” its policies. The judge overseeing the case recognized the unusual nature of a CEO contacting the family of a victim in such a manner and deemed Musk’s deposition necessary.
Plaintiffs’ lawyers have argued that Musk’s deposition is vital due to his status as a witness rather than merely as a CEO. The outcome of this appeal will have implications for the extent to which corporate leaders can be compelled to participate in such proceedings.