The family of Omar Awan, a Tesla lessee who died after 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, hit a palm tree, and caught fire. A policeman and other bystanders on the scene of the fire were not able to attempt to rescue Awan because the design of the Model S' door handles prevented them from opening the vehicle's doors, the family's attorneys claim in the lawsuit.
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 the policeman and other bystanders who tried to rescue him, according to the lawsuit.
In February, a Tesla representative directed Business Insider to its 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 on Thursday.
The attorneys representing Awan's family allege that Awan did not die from the collision's impact. Instead, they claim 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 claims. "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."
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