Family of Indy legal startup founder sues Tesla over fatal 2016 crash


Marilyn Odendahl for

Survivors of the founder of the Indianapolis-based legal startup Case Pacer, who died after a fiery 2016 crash of a Tesla Model S, have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the electric car maker, claiming the company built and sold a vehicle it knew was defective.

Kevin McCarthy’s wife and three children filed the lawsuit June 25 in Superior Court in Alameda, California. They assert the automobile’s defects, including its “unstable and inadequately protected lithium ion batteries,” “faulty door handles,” and “uncommanded acceleration,” led to McCarthy’s death after his Tesla S wrecked on Illinois Street in downtown Indianapolis on Nov. 3, 2016.

The family is seeking general damages and special damages as well as punitive and exemplary damages against Tesla, Inc.

“Kevin was a loving husband and father, a successful businessman and a pillar in his community,” said attorney Elise Sanguinetti, founding partner of Arias Sanguinetti Wang & Torrijos LLP. “He was killed because Tesla built and sold a car it knew was defective, and those known defects led to Kevin’s horrible, avoidable death.”

Arias Sanguinetti Wang & Torrijos LLP in California and Slavik Law Firm LLC in Colorado are representing the McCarthy family. The case is Stacey McCarthy et al. v. Tesla, Inc. and DOES 1 through 100, inclusive, 19C24488.

Tesla did not respond to a request for comment by IL deadline.

McCarthy had been in the process of building his company Case Pacer. After his death, the company leadership continued the business.

McCarthy was riding as a passenger in his 2015 Tesla Model S and Casey Speckman, an employee of Case Pacer, was driving. He and Speckman had been entertaining clients at the Omni Hotel in Indianapolis when they left shortly before 1 a.m. to retrieve some promotional materials they needed for the next day’s Indiana Trial Lawyers Association conference.

According to the lawsuit, Speckman lost control of the vehicle because of the uncommanded acceleration defect and, while attempting to avoid an oncoming car headed the wrong way, she drove up on the sidewalk and hit a tree. Witnesses said the car hit a wall and a fire subsequently ensured, engulfing the vehicle.

McCarthy was observed to be alive following the impact and was attempting to escape the vehicle, the lawsuit says.

However, the lawsuit says, because of the uncommanded acceleration event, the lack of effective automatic emergency braking and the ensuing crash, and the propensity of the vehicle to catch fire, as well as the defective design of the door latch system entrapping him in the vehicle, he was unable to exit the car.

As a result, according to the suit, McCarthy suffered severe thermal injuries and was exposed to toxic gases. After almost twenty minutes, the Indianapolis Fire Department extricated McCarthy and transported him to Eskenazi Hospital, where he died due to the injuries he suffered during the post-impact fire, the suit says.