Walmart Sues Tesla Over String of Solar-Panel Fires at Its Stores

SAN FRANCISCO (The Washington Post) -

Walmart filed suit against Tesla’s energy division on Wednesday, alleging breach of contract stemming from a string of fires on at least seven solar panels at stores in states across the country.

The retail giant alleged in the suit that Tesla, which acquired subsidiary SolarCity in 2016, was negligent in its deployment of solar panels on the roofs of hundreds of stores. Fires date back to 2012, the suit alleged. A more recent string took place beginning in March 2018 at stores in Ohio, Maryland, and California, the suit said. Another solar panel caught fire in November, months after the retail chain ordered Tesla to de-energize its solar panels earlier in the year.

“Why were multiple Walmart stores located all over the country suddenly catching fire?” the suit asks. “The answer was obvious and startling: the stores all had Tesla solar panels installed by Tesla on their roofs.”

Representatives for Tesla and Walmart did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

In Beavercreek, Ohio, the suit says, a fire closed a store for eight days after a solar panel went up in flames.

“Local news photographs and videos of the store showed a tremendous plume of black smoke emerging from flames as firefighters arrived at the scene,” according to the lawsuit. “As smoke invaded the store, Walmart employees made an announcement over the store’s public address system and instructed shoppers to evacuate.”

In Denton, Maryland, a fire punctured the roof of the store and caused significant damage, while a fire in Indio, California, eight days later resulted in millions of dollars’ worth of losses, according to the suit. Shoppers and workers were ordered into the parking lot, and a firefighter was treated after suffering from smoke inhalation, according to the lawsuit.