Walmart is suing Tesla for breach of contract after at least seven stores across the country caught on fire due to solar panel issues, causing millions of dollars in damage.
In the suit, Walmart alleges that Tesla's energy division, formerly known as SolarCity, engaged in "widespread, systemic negligence" and "failed to abide by prudent industry practices in installing, operating, and maintaining its solar systems."
The two companies had agreed that Walmart would lease or license its roof space to Tesla for the solar panels in exchange for lower energy costs. As part of the agreement, Tesla would retain ownership of the panels and handle their maintenance, the filing states
Walmart installed Tesla solar panels at over 240 stores across the country.
The retailer says fires broke out at seven stores between 2012 and 2018. One of the stores was the Indio location off Avenue 42.
On May 29, 2018, a fire began on the roof of the store near a segment of solar panels. The interior of the store sustained some water damage due to the activation of the sprinkler system. The store sustained $1,000,000 in damages. Two firefighters were hospitalized after suffering non-life threatening burn injuries. One person suffered minor injuries as well.
Cal Fire Riverside listed the cause of the fire as "electrical/solar panels" in a fact sheet.
"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," the complaint states.
Walmart is looking to recover the costs related to the fires and have Tesla remove the systems, as well as unspecified other damages.
Tesla could not be immediately reached for comment. Walmart declined to comment further on the suit.
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