Walmart files a lawsuit vs Tesla after solar panels start fire

After seven roofs caught fire in Walmart, the retail giant filed a multi-million dollar lawsuit against Tesla, alleging that the tech manufacturing company has “negligent installation and maintenance” of solar panels leading to a fire that has affected at least seven Walmart stores around the country since 2012.

Walmart hired the then SolarCity, a company that sold solar panels and other renewable energy equipment and was acquired by Elon Musk’s Tesla in 2016, to retrofit and provide the retail store chain with solar panels and manage them in all of the 240 Walmart stores nationwide. However, according to Walmart, the solar panel installation provided by SolarCity was mismanaged and has caused its roof to catch fire.

“Local news photographs and videos of the store showed a tremendous plume of black smoke emerging from flames as firefighters arrived at the scene,” Walmart says in its lawsuit, referencing to a fire that broke out in March 2018 on the roof of a Walmart in Beavercreek, Ohio.

The fire has endangered the lives of customers and employees, who was quickly evacuated after the discovery of the flames. While customers and employees were effectively ushered to safety, Walmart said that the fire had caused monetary damage in terms of destroyed infrastructure and damaged merchandise.

“As smoke invaded the store, Walmart employees made an announcement over the store’s public address system and instructed shoppers to evacuate. Customers in nearby shops were also evacuated until firefighters were able to control the blaze. The fire destroyed significant amounts of store merchandise and required substantial repairs, totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket losses. The store remained closed for eight days. Ominously, the fire had occurred near gas lines on the store’s roof. By a stroke of luck, the gas lines remained intact, and catastrophic damages and injuries were averted,” reads the 115-page court document obtained by Z6Mag.

Two months after the Ohio fire, another fire broke out in one Walmart store in Maryland, leading to similar forms of damage in property and goods. Eight days after that, another fire broke out on the roof of a Walmart store in Indio, California.

“Local news coverage on May 29, 2018, described a scene of “[t]hick black smoke billow[ing]” from the store’s roof, substantial portions of which were “engulfed in flames, which spread into the store.” “[C]ustomers, and employees were evacuated to the parking lot.” A firefighter was treated for smoke inhalation but, by yet another stroke of luck, was not grievously injured. This fire resulted in millions of dollars’ worth of losses,” the retail giant added in the filing.

Walmart accuses Tesla of negligence and breach of contract in relation to the fire that broke out in its stores’ roofing from Tesla solar panels. “To state the obvious, properly designed, installed, inspected, and maintained solar systems do not spontaneously combust, and the occurrence of multiple fires involving Tesla’s solar systems is but one unmistakable sign of negligence by Tesla,” they added.

The retail giant said that until today, the solar panel manufacturer is yet to provide them with “root cause” analysis to identify the problems and resolve issues that would prevent future fires. For Walmart, Tesla neglected its responsibility to maintain and manage the solar panels as stipulated in their contract.

Walmart highlights in its filing that there is a huge number of defects in Tesla’s solar panel that it already indicates that the problem is systemic rather than isolated cases. With this, Tesla allegedly failed to meet “standards of care,” that caused a fire in Walmart stores, endangering customers and employees, as well as causing massive financial losses to the company.

Amid Walmart’s demand for Tesla to take responsibility for the fires that involve its solar panels, the retail company alleges that no form of monetary compensation was given to them for all their losses.

“Despite months of back-and-forth with Walmart, Tesla has yet to pay one cent of the out-of-pocket damages and consulting/inspection fees that Walmart incurred as a result of the fires at Denton, Indio, and Yuba City, as well as consultant and attorneys’ fees related to the Beavercreek fire,” Walmart writes in its Tuesday complaint.

As a consequence, Walmart is suing Tesla not only for damages but also to petition the courts to demand from the solar panel manufacturer to remove its products from the roofs of Walmart.

Meanwhile, Tesla did not respond to a comment on the matter as of writing.

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