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Family Sues Tesla Over Fatal Crash, Alleging Defective Battery

Tesla is being sued by the family of Edgar Monserratt Martinez, a passenger who died in a 116 mph crash involving a 2014 Tesla S sedan.

The suit alleges that the sedan’s battery pack was defective and dangerous and that Tesla was negligent in removing a speed limiter.

The car in question belonged to James and Jenny Riley, whose son Barrett was driving at the time of the crash and also died. The Rileys had installed a device that limited the car’s top speed to 85 mph after Barrett got a speeding ticket for driving at 112 mph. However, the lawsuit alleges that a Tesla service center later removed the device without their permission or knowledge.

“Had James B. Riley or Jenny B. Riley been made aware of the fact that the 85-speed limiter/governor had been improperly removed, they would not have permitted their son, Barrett Riley, to operate the vehicle,” the court papers state.

“Had the 85-speed limiter/governor not been improperly removed by defendants,” the suit continues, “the vehicle would not have exceeded 85 and Barret Riley would not have lost control of the vehicle.”

While car fires are relatively common, early numbers have hinted that electric vehicles may be more prone than gas-powered cars. The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board also just issued a preliminary report on a separate Tesla battery fire incident and is studying at least three other cases, although it has yet to make a determination of probable cause for the latest event.

Tesla is also facing lawsuits over its Autopilot feature, an early stab at autonomous driving technology that has already been involved in numerous crashes, some fatal.

“Unfortunately, no car could have withstood a high-speed crash of this kind,” Tesla said in a statement sent to Ars Technica. “Tesla’s Speed Limit Mode, which allows Tesla owners to limit their car’s speed and acceleration, was introduced as an over-the-air update last year in dedication to our customer’s son, Barrett Riley, who tragically passed away in the accident.”