A California judge has handed down a significant ruling in favour of Tesla, stating that a group of Tesla vehicle owners must resolve their claims of false advertising regarding Autopilot features through individual arbitration, rather than in a court of law.
The ruling, issued on Saturday by U.S. District Judge Haywood Gilliam, and reported by Reuters, revolves around a proposed class-action lawsuit filed by four Tesla owners who alleged that the company misled the public about the capabilities of its Autopilot technology. These owners claimed that Tesla repeatedly made false statements about its advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) and the imminent arrival of fully self-driving vehicles.
They further asserted that they paid significant sums to purchase the optional ADAS technology when acquiring their Tesla cars between 2017 and 2022.
However, rather than experiencing the promised advancements, these Tesla owners argued that the technology had proven unreliable, resulting in accidents, injuries, and even fatalities. Tesla has consistently denied any wrongdoing and sought to have the claims handled through arbitration, referencing the arbitration agreements that the plaintiffs had accepted when purchasing their vehicles on the Tesla website.
Judge Gilliam’s decision upheld Tesla’s argument that the arbitration agreements were valid and enforceable. This ruling means that the four plaintiffs involved in this particular case will need to address their claims individually through arbitration, rather than pursuing a class-action lawsuit against the company.
This legal development comes at a crucial time, as Tesla is currently embroiled in its first US trial over allegations that its Autopilot feature contributed to a fatal accident. The trial revolves around the claim that Autopilot caused a Model 3 to veer off the road, resulting in a fatal crash. Tesla maintains that the accident was due to driver error and not a fault in the Autopilot technology.