The Tesla Model S handles are programmed to automatically extend out of the door when a driver or passenger approaches the car. When not in use, the handles withdraw into the door to improve aerodynamics.
In February 2019, Dr. Omar Awan veered his Tesla Model S into the median of a parkway in South Florida and hit a palm free. Nearby, a police officer saw the accident and rushed to help Dr. Awan, but could not open the door because the Tesla’s door handles remained retracted.
The battery in the Tesla quickly caught on fire, and flames spread. The police officer and bystanders watched helplessly as the vehicle was engulfed in flames. It burned for hours, reigniting several times, even after firefighters put out the initial blaze and the vehicle was towed.
Dr. Awan was alive after he hit the tree and suffered no broken bones or internal injuries. Tragically, he died from smoke inhalation as he sat locked inside the Tesla, despite the fact that a police officer and bystanders tried to save him until the fire forced them to retreat.
The lawsuit claims that Dr. Awan’s death occurred “all because the Model S has inaccessible door handles, no other way to open the doors, and an unreasonably dangerous fire risk.” These defects render the vehicle a “death trap,” according to the complaint.
The lawsuit was filed on October 10, 2019 in the Broward County Judicial Circuit Court of the State of Florida — In RE: Awan v. Tesla Inc. — Case Number 19-021110.