An advertisement promotes Tesla Autopilot at a showroom of U.S. car manufacturer Tesla in Zurich, Switzerland March 28, 2018. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann/ File Photo Acquire Licensing Rights
Nov 21 (Reuters) - A Florida judge found "reasonable evidence" that Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk and other managers knew the automaker's vehicles had a defective Autopilot system but still allowed the cars to be driven unsafely, according to a ruling.
Judge Reid Scott, in the Circuit Court for Palm Beach County, ruled last week that the plaintiff in a lawsuit over a fatal crash could proceed to trial and bring punitive damages claims against Tesla for intentional misconduct and gross negligence. The order has not been previously reported.
The ruling is a setback for Tesla after the company won two product liability trials in California earlier this year over the Autopilot driver assistant system. A Tesla spokesperson could not immediately be reached for comment on Tuesday.
The Florida lawsuit arose out of a 2019 crash north of Miami in which owner Stephen Banner's Model 3 drove under the trailer of an 18-wheeler big rig truck that had turned onto the road, shearing off the Tesla's roof and killing Banner. A trial set for October was delayed, and has not been rescheduled.