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Walmart accuses Tesla of ‘incompetence or callousness’ in elaborate lawsuit over solar panels

Walmart accuses Tesla of ‘incompetence or callousness’ in elaborate lawsuit over solar panels
[Photo: Flickr user Walmart]

Walmart wants Tesla to pay up for its charred and scorched roofs.

The retail giant claims Tesla’s solar panel arm (which was formed when Tesla acquired SolarCity in 2016) is to blame for a series of fires that damaged Walmart stores and merchandise, according to a multi-million-dollar lawsuit filed yesterday in the state of New York.

The suit accuses Tesla of “widespread, systemic negligence,” and lays out a number of alleged failures on SolarCity and Tesla’s part after SolarCity was brought on to put solar panels “on the roofs of hundreds of Walmart stores.”

Among its many complaints, Walmart claims the solar firm “failed to abide by prudent industry practices” and “routinely deployed individuals to inspect the solar systems who lacked basic solar training and knowledge.” The suit accuses Tesla of “incompetence or callousness, or both” and states that safety issues persisted even after Tesla “disconnected” or “de-energized” its solar panels. In all, Walmart claims Tesla is liable for “no fewer than seven” Walmart store fires.

Walmart entered into contracts with SolarCity between February 2010 and February 2016, according to the suit—before Tesla and SolarCity merged. However, Walmart claims that “Tesla failed [following the acquisition] to correct SolarCity’s chaotic installation practices or to adopt adequate maintenance protocols, which would have been particularly important in light of the improper installation practices.” The retailer dragged Musk’s controversial SolarCity deal through the mud, calling the purchase a “bail out [of] the flailing company.”

These statements have not yet inspired a public rebuttal from Tesla owner Elon Musk on Twitter or elsewhere. However, Fast Company has reached out to Tesla’s press line for comment on the allegations.

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