California

Santa Barbara mom sues Tesla after she says her toddler nearly ran her over

A Santa Barbara mother is suing Tesla after she says her toddler got into the driver’s seat of her Model X, put the car into gear and pinned her against the wall, according to a statement from Gokal Law Group, a Foothill Ranch-based law firm which is representing her.

Mallory Harcourt, 31, was eight months pregnant at the time, according to the lawsuit, and gave birth prematurely as a result of the incident. Her pelvis was cracked in three places, and she suffered a broken leg.

Harcourt said in the statement that her 3-day-old Tesla was parked in her driveway with the engine off, and she left the falcon doors open as she got her toddler and some groceries out of the car.

As she walked toward her garage, her 2-year-old son ran back toward the car, hopped into the driver’s seat, and began driving the 5,500-pound SUV toward her just as she was calling him to come back, according to the statement.

The incident happened on Dec. 27, 2018.

Harcourt alleged that she was “lifted, carried into the garage, slammed against the wall and pinned,” according to the statement.

“I was trapped and had to scream until someone heard me and came for help,” Harcourt said in the statement. Her young son burst into tears upon seeing his mother injured.

Her son “has been traumatized for months and has required therapy,” according to the statement.

“We did our research, excited we found the safest car for our growing family, only now we know it is a nightmare,” Harcourt said in the statement. “My toddler learned how to start and operate the Tesla faster than an adult can open a childproof bottle. We could have died. The public needs to know.”

Gokal Law Group said they sent letters to Tesla on the Harcourts’ behalf, urging the company to issue a formal advisory and make a safety modification to the Model X’s “start-and-drive functionality,” according to the release.

According to a copy of the letter lawyer Alison Gokal sent to Tesla on Feb. 21, which was obtained by KTLA, Gokal wrote that the child “lodged himself between the accelerator and the driver’s seat, pulled the gear lever and accelerated directly into Mom.”

A letter from Tesla that was posted on the law firm’s website said “the vehicle responded to the operator’s inputs as designed.”

“We regret that this incident happened, however, we have not found any other instance of this sequence of events occurring — an unsupervised child manages to successfully shift the vehicle into gear and then apply the accelerator pedal — and we do not believe it is reasonably foreseeable,” Tesla said in the letter, dated March 11.

In the law firm’s statement, Gokal called Tesla’s response “outrageous.”

“The mother, son and unborn baby could have been killed,” Gokal said in the statement. “My clients are absolutely terrified of this happening to another family and want Tesla to prevent a repeat of this tragedy.”

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