Retail giant Walmart is suing Elon Musk's electric vehicle maker and energy company Tesla, accusing it of "gross negligence" and blaming Tesla's rooftop solar panels for fires at seven of its stores.
However, Walmart claims SolarCity's business model, "required it to install solar panel systems haphazardly and as quickly as possible in order to turn a profit, and the contractors and subcontractors who performed the original installation work had not been properly hired, trained, and supervised".
Whether and how Tesla responds to the lawsuit remains unclear at the time of writing.
Tesla de-energized all of the Walmart solar panels in June 2018, but another fire broke out on a roof at the Yuba City, California, location on November 29 because of the panels, the court documents claim.
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Key to the lawsuit is the fact Walmart's contract with SolarCity and subsequently Tesla required the company to "install, maintain, and operate" the panels. "To this day, Tesla has not provided Walmart with the complete set of final "root cause" analyses needed to identify the precise defects in its systems that caused all of the fires described above". Walmart's lawsuit states Tesla failed 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". Taking precautionary measures, the retail giant has also asked Tesla to remove solar panels installed at more than 240 of its stores and pay for all the resulting damages.
Tesla didn't immediately address the retailer's complaint. In October, the retailer signed a deal with SunPower Corp. for installation of solar systems at 19 stores and two distribution centers in IL.
Three days later, on August 18, Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk announced the re-launch of the company's solar business that allows customers to install solar panels without a long-term contract.
Shares of the California-based company were down about 1% in extended trading.
With assistance from Brian Eckhouse, Dana Hull and Matthew Boyle.