A grieving widow is suing Tesla after her husband's 2020 Model 3 crashed and exploded, causing a fire that resulted in his death.
The plaintiff, Jiyoung Yoon, claims Tesla played a role in designing, manufacturing, distributing and selling her husband's car in its "defective and unreasonably dangerous condition," which ultimately caused his death, according to a lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York.
Jyung Woo Hahn, 46, was driving his Tesla on the Palisades Interstate Parkway in Rockland County, New York, on March 12, 2022 when the vehicle malfunctioned and collided with a tree and immediately burst into flames. Yoon claims her husband survived the initial crash, but was trapped in the fast-burning vehicle. Images of the wreck show a charred shell of a vehicle.
Nanuet firefighters who responded to the crash said the fire was "extremely difficult" to put out after the car's lithium-ion battery burst into flames, per a report from The Daily Voice.
When a lithium-ion battery is ruptured, a process called thermal runaway happens, which results in a sharp increase of battery cell temperature and pressure, accompanied by the release of flammable gas. The flammable gas can ignite from the battery’s high temperature, resulting in a quick fire that’s hard to put out and emits toxic fumes.
Tesla's batteries span the entire length and width of the floor of its vehicles, making a fire that much more encompassing.
Firefighters used more than 1,000 gallons of water to extinguish the fire.
Yoon alleges that Tesla is strictly liable for her husband's death. She accuses the automaker of making a vehicle that is defective in its design and manufacture, and is not crashworthy. Yoon also alleges that Tesla is guilty of negligence and breach of implied warranty of merchantability.
The plaintiff demands a jury trial and is asking for all damages recoverable by law, including actual damages, lost wages and earning capacity, loss of parental guidance, emotional distress, punitive damages and more.
There have been a range of fires in recent years started by Tesla crashes, due to the flammable nature of lithium-ion batteries. In July, a Tesla crashed into a home in New York, causing a fire that killed two people. That same month, another Tesla crashed into an elementary school parking lot in California, causing the car to burst into flames.
TechCrunch has reached out to the National Traffic Highway Safety Administration to determine if the agency is investigating fires related to Tesla crashes.
NHTSA is currently investigating Tesla over loss of power steering control, and the agency has opened dozens of special crash investigations into Tesla vehicles where Autopilot (Tesla's advanced driver assistance system) was suspected of being used before a crash.