Lawyers for the family of a man who died in a fiery Tesla Model S crash are calling the vehicle a 'death trap' in a lawsuit against the company

Local 10 NewsThe Tesla Model S fire that killed Omar Awan in February.
  • The family of Omar Awan, a Tesla lessee who died in February in a crash in which his Model S sedan caught fire, is suing the electric-car maker, alleging that “the Model S’ design was defective and unreasonably dangerous.”
  • In the lawsuit, the family’s attorneys say a police officer and other bystanders were unable to reach Awan because the design of the Model S door handles prevented them from opening the vehicle’s doors.
  • The Model S has distinctive door handles that are flush with the vehicle’s sheet metal unless the key fob is nearby, at which point they can extend outward, allowing the driver or passenger to grab them and open the door.
  • The door handles on Awan’s car would not extend for those at the scene of the fire, according to the lawsuit.
  • The attorneys representing Awan’s family allege that Awan did not die from the collision’s impact. Instead, they say he was killed by the smoke that filled the car after its battery caught fire.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The family of Omar Awan, a Tesla lessee who died in a crash in which his Model S sedan caught fire, is suing the electric-car maker, alleging that “the Model S’ design was defective and unreasonably dangerous.”

Awan died in February after his Model S veered off a parkway and hit a palm tree. The vehicle caught fire, and the family’s attorneys claim in the lawsuit that a police officer and other bystanders on the scene were unable to reach Awan because the design of the Model S door handles prevented them from opening the vehicle’s doors.

The Model S has distinctive door handles that lie flush with the vehicle’s sheet metal unless the key fob is nearby, at which point they can extend outward, allowing the driver or passenger to grab them and open the door. The door handles on Awan’s car would not extend for those who tried to rescue him, according to the lawsuit.

In February, a Tesla representative directed Business Insider to the company’s emergency-response guide for the Model S, which says the vehicle must be opened from the inside if the exterior door handles are not working.

The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the lawsuit Thursday.

The attorneys representing Awan’s family allege that Awan did not die from the collision’s impact. Instead, they say he was killed by the smoke that filled the car after its battery caught fire.

“The Model S’s design precluded those on the scene of the crash from getting Dr. Awan out of the cabin because the door handles failed,” the lawsuit says. “The Model S had an unreasonably dangerous fire risk that was not addressed through proper design. And Tesla failed to give any appropriate, adequate, full or fair warnings about the risks relating to the door handles or the smoke and fire.”

Are you a current or former Tesla employee? Do you have an opinion about what it’s like to work there? Contact this reporter at [email protected]. You can ask for more secure methods of communication, like Signal or ProtonMail, by email or Twitter direct message.

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