According to the accident report compiled by the California Highway Patrol, 63-year-old driver Navindra Kumar Jain fell asleep at the wheel while driving northbound on Highway 1 in Santa Cruz, crossed into the oncoming, southbound lane, crested a small hill and then while doing 55 miles per hour hit a southbound cyclist who was riding on the shoulder. The cyclist, Joshua Alper, died at the scene. Jain was driving a Tesla Model S he had bought ten days earlier and said that the intense new-car smell - which he attempted to counter with a baking-soda scented air freshener - caused him to fall asleep.

The accident happened in November, and after a three-month investigation the Santa Cruz district attorney has decided to charge Jain with "misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter." As you could guess, there are still plenty of unresolved issues. Jain has said he "fell asleep" and there was nothing mechanically wrong with the car he had bought ten days before the incident. His attorney, however, says "he passed out while driving and still does not know what caused the accident," and that the Tesla "and all its component parts" must be thoroughly tested. The CHP tore the Tesla apart, standard practice in manslaughter cases, and, not having found anything amiss, declared the driver at fault. Observers, and especially cyclists, want to know why Jain was only charged with a misdemeanor, and why he hasn't yet been arrested. Some might ask why he didn't just roll down a window.

It will take the courts to decide - that's "courts," plural. In addition to the criminal case, Alper's family is suing Jain and Tesla, appearing to cover its bases with the new-car-smell defense by accusing the Model S of being "defective and unreasonably dangerous when used in a normal, intended and foreseeable manner." That seems like a stretch to us, but it's not like bizarre defenses haven't ever swayed a sentencing before. No matter the verdict in the criminal or civil cases, though, with Joshua Alper gone, nobody wins.


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  • 141 Comments
      i.own.your.ass
      • 10 Months Ago
      another Tesla market ing hype...yet so many of you fsll for it....
        GR
        • 10 Months Ago
        @i.own.your.ass
        You have a serious logical reasoning deficit.
        Spec
        • 10 Months Ago
        @i.own.your.ass
        Marketing hype? Buy our cars . . . you'll fall asleep and kill people!
      Kuro Houou
      • 10 Months Ago
      LOL, that is the most insane thing I have ever heard!! Take some responsibility in your life dumb ass! I lost an Uncle to someone like you. Step up and take your punishment.. If you were tired, pull over!!
      Zaki
      • 10 Months Ago
      There should be a law that if you sue and it is found that there was no merit to your lawsuit, then you by law will be obliged to foot the legal bill for all the parties involved. That ought make these greedy sue happy people think twice.
        King of Eldorado
        • 10 Months Ago
        @Zaki
        Why is it "sue happy" for the family of a car accident victim to seek monetary compensation from whoever is at fault? Neither they nor their lawyer originated the "new car smell" theory. As the article mentions, there are two cases. The "new car smell" theory originated as a defense in the criminal case against the driver. A criminal defense attorney is legally obligated to raise any plausible defense his or her client might have. (Look up "Twinkie defense.") If the "smell" defense succeeds, it might keep the driver out of jail, but it won't by itself result in any monetary recovery for the cyclist's family. The monetary recovery would come in the other case: a civil suit against the driver and, because the driver raised the "smell" defense, Tesla. I doubt if the cyclist's family's lawyer would have come up with the "smell" theory on his or her own; rather, the lawyer is raising it because the Tesla driver is essentially saying, "It wasn't my fault; it was Tesla's." Thus, it makes perfect sense for the cyclist's attorney to include both the driver and Tesla in a single lawsuit and let them sort out whose fault it was. All I see here is two lawyers doing their jobs: one trying to defend his or her client against a criminal charge; the other trying to recover monetary damages from the party at fault in the accident.
          Zaki
          • 10 Months Ago
          @King of Eldorado
          There is a pervasive culture in the US that if something bad happens then someone MUST be at fault other than oneself. This makes lawyers happy [and rich] and causes unnecessary pain and suffering to the remainder. The lawyers make money no matter what. That is why you see them begging for people to sue products, industries and essentially each other for any harm done, real or imaginary. Their is a place for meritorious legal action...unfortunately the overwhelming majority of lawsuits are frivolous.
        mylexicon
        • 10 Months Ago
        @Zaki
        Loser pays would reduce the volume of frivolous cases brought before the civil system, but it will not stop judges from granting frivolous hearings, nor will it stop the legal system from dedicating excessive time and money to hear frivolous law suits. Lawyers get bored with the daily routine. They are easily goaded into pointless legal questions that provide occupational stimulation, and they are often seduced by opportunities to set legal precedent. The ballot is about the only way to stop frivolous lawsuits and irrelevant legal questions, but people rarely pay attention to the workings of the legal machine, and even fewer could understand the difference between a legitimate legal question, cloaked in absurd circumstances, from genuinely frivolous nonsense. Loser-pays can actually lead to unintended consequences. If the cost of losing is higher for corporations, out of court settlements, even those for frivolous claims, could become more advantageous. Hotly contested legal battles over important matters of law could leave private individuals financially destitute if they lose a close battle. We could convert the civil system from adversarial law to inquisitional law. Rather than allowing private citizens to have a legal punch-up with the government acting as referee, the public judges and lawyers would actually perform legal services for the parties in question, which can allow justice to be more blind. However, ceding power to the government and its lobbyists is always a tough sell, and may not actually be better for society.
          purrpullberra
          • 10 Months Ago
          @mylexicon
          Well then let's decide when loser-pays should happen. In this case almost everyone can see that this charge should be thrown out and the guy sentenced to serious punishment and fined a large %, say 15%, of his income, so it hurts him as much as a regular-sized fine hurts poorer people. Loser pays can work in some circumstances and so we should advocate for it. The other ideas seem ripe for the worst abuses. 3 judge panels could decide that certain losers must pay. Make sure they are all independent and competent and not be the presiding judge, for example..
      Evan
      • 10 Months Ago
      Why only manslaughter? That's because U.S. laws basically say that you're no longer a human while riding a bike. You have no value. Just like hitting a deer. It's really, really sad. If you're driving and feel sleepy, pull over!! Can't anyone in this country take responsibility for their own actions anymore?
        Casey Jensen
        • 10 Months Ago
        @Evan
        Do you understand what Manslaughter means? The crime of killing a human being without malice aforethought, or otherwise in circumstances not amounting to murder.
          Evan
          • 10 Months Ago
          @Casey Jensen
          Ah, my mistake! I thought that was considered a "light" sentence. Guess I don't know much about legal terms.
        Cayman
        • 10 Months Ago
        @Evan
        Probably because what he did was "only" manslaughter. There was no intention to kill the cyclist, therefore it's manslaughter.
      Jim1961
      • 10 Months Ago
      New car smell made me rob a bank!
      Zaki
      • 10 Months Ago
      What a cheap looking interior. I can almost smell the cheap hard plastic. But that is no reason to mow down cyclists.
        Dave D
        • 10 Months Ago
        @Zaki
        It's also no reason to have sex with your sister...but it didn't seem to stop your father.
      Jason
      • 10 Months Ago
      Driver blames "anything but himself" for his own criminally negligent behavior
      Chris
      • 10 Months Ago
      What a jerk!! It wasn't the "new car smell" that killed the cyclist, but this idiot's negligence that did. This man is simply taking the coward's way out rather than owning up to his mistakes. If he was willing to admit he messed up, and show some remorse, I would have a lot more sympathy for him.
      imoore
      • 10 Months Ago
      In this case, the only defective part in this car is the nut behind the wheel, and it was an aftermarket part at that (i.e., the driver bought the car and placed himself in it). So, basically, the driver is passing blame for his own lack of judgement. He needs to be locked up and pay his debt to society. As for the family, I can understand their suing Jain for his carelessness, but suing Tesla is going too far. Claiming that "new car smell" is defective is a bunch of bull crap, and their agreeing with Jain on that claim clearly shows that want this to turn into a money grab. And since CHP's findings declared there was nothing wrong with the car, and subsequent lab tests (and there will be some) will prove the same, then the family will be left looking like greedy fools and likely walk away empty-handed.
      Gorgenapper
      • 10 Months Ago
      Roll a window down? And breathe the same air as the plebes?! Who knows what might be in the air....nitrogen, oxygen, water?!! He was entirely justified in keeping the window up, can't expect the upper crust of society to live in the same atmosphere as the great unwashed masses.
      Diz
      • 10 Months Ago
      There is a jury out there stupid enough to believe this. Just ask OJ.
        Zaki
        • 10 Months Ago
        @Diz
        In California? You bet there is!
          Indubitably
          • 10 Months Ago
          @Zaki
          I would have to disagree. The hippies love Tesla.
        GR
        • 10 Months Ago
        @Diz
        Keep in mind that while OJ got off in criminal court, he was found guilty in civil court. He has to pay the victim's families until he dies. That's why he's pretty much broke. The same result is fitting for this case. I don't think the driver needs a stiff criminal conviction as much as a conviction in civil court. This would make him financially responsible for the incident. Tesla has nothing to do with the case other than this chump fell asleep driving one of its cars. It would have happened in any car because he was tired, not nauseated.
      canuckcharlie
      • 10 Months Ago
      When there's absolutely nothing to blame but to admit that it's your own fault... shame on the driver to pushing this off to the car manufacturer.
        wilkegm
        • 10 Months Ago
        @canuckcharlie
        Shame on him for not knowing when it was time to park it and get some rest or at least some stimulants.
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