Tesla Faces Indiana Trial Over Truck’s Collision With Motorcyclist, Watch Gavel-to-Gavel via CVN

Posted by David Siegel on Mar 5, 2024 11:34:31 PM

Dugan Rowley openings

CVN screenshot of plaintiff attorney Nick Rowley delivering his opening statement

Indianapolis, IN - An Indiana state court jury heard opening statements Tuesday in a lawsuit filed by a motorcyclist who suffered severe injuries in a collision with a truck driven by a Tesla employee, and the full proceedings are being webcast gavel-to-gavel by Courtroom View Network.

Plaintiff Christopher Dugan suffered a severe traumatic brain injury and required a partial foot amputation following a collision in 2017 with a Ford F-250 truck driven by Tesla mobile service technician Kyle Kaszuba. Dugan’s lawsuit accuses Kaszuba of making a “blind turn” across double yellow lines in bright sunlight to avoid a long line for a gas station while running late for work.

Tesla maintains Kaszuba was not negligent, instead characterizing the incident as a tragic accident. The company’s lawyers argue Kaszuba made a turn that motorists routinely make at the some location, and that it was impossible for him to see Dugan’s motorcycle due to Dugan driving closely behind another truck.

The trial marks the first time CVN has webcast a case in Indiana after the adoption of new guidelines allowing electronic media access in Indiana courtrooms. The state was previously one of the few in the country with a near total ban on camera coverage of all trial court proceedings.


Tuesday’s opening statements dealt entirely with the question of liability with any potential determination of damages coming in a second phase of a bifurcated trial.

Attorney Nicholas Rowley of Trial Lawyers For Justice, representing the Dugan family, urged the Marion County jury to find Tesla 100 percent responsible for the collision, arguing that Kaszuba made reckless choices while running low on gas and trying to shave time off his morning commute.

“He knew better,” Rowley said. “He knew what was safe and he knew what wasn’t safe.”

Rowley explained to jurors that Kaszuba saw a long line in the designated turn lane leading into a gas station and instead decided to make a left turn across double yellow lines into an adjoining empty lot. While making the turn he broadsided Dugan’s motorcycle, which was coming from the opposite direction.

Showing jurors security footage of the actual collision, Rowley repeatedly argued that Kaszuba’s rush to get to work was the primary cause of the accident.

“He made the decision not to wait in line like everybody else,” Rowley said.

He told jurors Kaszuba testified in a deposition he was familiar with that road and knew the sun shone very brightly at that time and location, and that he should have known making a turn across double yellow lines without clear visibility was dangerous.

“You weren’t being reasonably careful when you chose the gas pedal over the brake when you were being blinded by the sun,” he said, suggesting that Kaszuba knew he was low on gas when he began his commute and could have easily refilled at a station a mile up the road that required a safer right turn. 

“He had that entire drive to make a safe gas stop,” Rowley emphasized.

Representing Tesla, attorney Michael Lifrak of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan LLP expressed sympathy for the Dugan family but aggressively defended Kaszuba’s actions, stressing that he wasn’t negligent because it was impossible for him to see Dugan’s motorcycle.

Dugan defense openings

CVN screenshot of defense attorney Michael Lifrak delivering his opening statement

“It wasn’t the sun. It wasn’t a blind turn. Mr. Dugan couldn’t be seen,” Lifrak told the jury. He argued Kaszuba put on his turn signal and waited until what he thought was a reasonable opportunity to turn, but that Dugan’s motorcycle was on the shoulder and close behind another truck making him supposedly invisible.

“He decided to take a left turn when the last visible vehicle passed,” Lifrak said, suggesting that's what any reasonable driver does while making a left turn across traffic. 

Lifrak also told jurors that evidence would show motorists routinely access the gas station via the same adjoining lot and make the same left turn that Kaszuba attempted, and the fact he didn’t use the designated turn lane doesn’t on its own demonstrate any negligence.

“The turn that Kyle attempted to make that day is one that people make dozens and dozens of times every day,” he said. “It isn’t unreasonable by itself to try to take that turn.”

The trial, taking place before Judge Marianne L. Vorhees is expected to take roughly two weeks to complete, and CVN’s gavel-to-gavel coverage will continue for the duration of the proceedings.

The case is captioned Christopher Dugan v. Tesla Inc., case number 49D04-1705-CT-018411 in Marion County Superior Court.

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Topics: Negligence, automotive