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State Farm sues Tesla over alleged battery fire

A Tesla car recharges at a shopping center in North Carolina in 2017.
A Tesla car recharges at a shopping center in North Carolina in 2017.

State Farm is suing Tesla, claiming the electric car company has a faulty electrical system design that can't regulate battery cells. The federal lawsuit filed in Indiana on Feb. 16 claims the defects caused a Tesla Model S to catch fire while it was parked and charging in a family garage.

The flames spread to two other vehicles in the garage and an attached home in Carmel, Ind. in February of 2020, according to the lawsuit. State Farm is trying to recover at least the $1.271 million it paid to the family on their insurance policy.

The lawsuit contends "as a direct and proximate result of negligent acts and/or omissions on the part of Defendant Tesla, a significant electrical event occurred. The electrical arcing event quickly ignited readily available combustibles within the Tesla, creating a dangerous fire."

About a year before the car fire in Indiana, Tesla updated charging system software, following several fires in parked vehicles in Hong Kong and China. The lawsuit said Randal and Dorothy Sencaj bought the Tesla new in 2016.

Most fires involving batteries in electric vehicles of all brands have been connected to accidents in which the battery compartment was breached. Few have involved parked or charging vehicles.

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