Yes, Tesla, owned by Elon Musk is being sued by Walmart for solar-panel rooftop fires that have happened so far at seven of Walmart stores located in California, Maryland and Ohio. There are a total of 240 Walmart stores across the US that have Tesla solar-panel rooftop tiles. The lawsuit was filed in New York state.
The rooftop area in which the Tesla solar-panels are installed is leased or rented to Tesla by Walmart but the solar-panels are owned by Tesla with a contract that states that Tesla would be responsible for periodic checks and maintenance.
Walmart is suing for breach of contract saying that Tesla presented its solar-panels, designed to look like rooftop tiles, to be ‘safe, reliable and an environmentally conscious way for Walmart to reduce energy costs.’ The lawsuit is also alleging to gross negligence and Tesla’s failure to meet industry standards.
In the suit, Walmart complains that Tesla employees, sent out to inspect the solar-panel system, lacked basic knowledge and solar-panel power training. The suit also alleges that Tesla failed to properly ground its solar and electrical systems. It also complains that some solar panels had defects that could be seen with the naked eye.
The lawsuit lists thousands of dollars worth in expenses for repairs, damage to property and inventory, not to mention costs in evacuation of customers and employees and loss in sales.
Tesla purchased Solar City, Inc, which at the time was the largest US solar-panel installer in the US in June of 2016 for around $2.6 billion. Elon Musk was the chairman of Tesla at the time and also owned about one-fifth of SolarCity stock, which was valued around $575 million at the end of 2015. Musk’s first cousins, Peter and Lyndon Rive founded Solar City but later left the company after the purchase.
The lawsuit also complains that after Tesla bought SolarCity it did not make changes to the chaotic installation practices being used by SolarCity nor to adopt better maintenance protocols which Walmart attorneys point out is particularly important in the light of the improper installation practices that have resulted in seven fires so far.
Lately, Tesla has been trying to revive its solar panel business and even announced on Sunday, August 18, 2019 that in six states residential customers could rent their solar panels without a contract for a monthly fee between $50 to $65. However, the fine print on the company’s website says there would be a $1,500 fee to remove the panels and for restoring the customer’s roof.