Walmart is suing Tesla over claims that the company’s solar panels caused fires at around seven of its stores.
The blazes destroyed merchandise and caused other damage worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, Walmart says in the lawsuit filed in a New York court on Tuesday.
Targeting Tesla Energy Operations — part of the larger company led by billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk — Walmart’s lawsuit alleges a breach of contract “arising from years of gross negligence,” as well as “a failure to live up to industry standards” regarding the design, installation, and maintenance of the solar panels on the roofs of around 240 Walmart stores.
The retail giant claimed that many of the issues “stemmed from a rushed, negligent approach to the systems’ installation” carried out from 2010 by SolarCity, the solar panel company founded by two cousins of Musk, and which Tesla acquired in 2016 for $2.6 billion.
According to the filing, SolarCity’s business model meant that the solar panel systems were installed “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.”
Walmart claims that the personnel deployed by Tesla to maintain the solar systems “lacked basic solar training and knowledge,” and that some of the installed solar panels contained defects that were “visible to the naked eye or readily identifiable with the proper use of standard equipment.” The lawsuit says that the existence of the apparent defects suggested Tesla “had not been inspecting the sites or that its inspection protocols were woefully deficient.”
The filing also describes “dangerous wire connection practices” and says Tesla failed to keep proper documentation regarding its work at Walmart sites.
Walmart wants Tesla to remove its solar panels from all of its stores, and to pay for damage caused by the fires as well as other related costs.
The lawsuit landed in the same week that Tesla launched a new solar-rental plan for homeowners in six states.
We’ve reached out to Walmart and Tesla for comment on the case and will update this piece if we hear back.