Ex-Nevada Tesla worker sues for $1M in defamation damages

Updated August 2, 2018 - 10:21 pm

RENO, Nev. — A former Tesla Inc. employee at the electric car maker’s battery plant in Nevada is seeking at least $1 million in defamation damages after it accused him of sabotage, hacking into computers and stealing confidential information leaked to the media.

Lawyers for Martin Tripp filed a counterclaim in federal court this week alleging any damages Tesla incurred were caused or contributed to by Tesla’s “own negligence, acts or omissions.”

Tripp alleges that between $150 million and $200 million worth of battery module parts for Tesla’s Model 3 vehicle were incorrectly handled as scrap earlier this year. He said more than 700 dented and/or punctured battery modules were not discarded and instead were being shipped or were in the process of being shipped to customers.

A punctured battery could pose a fire risk.

Tesla officials did not respond to repeated requests for comment from The Associated Press on Thursday.

Tripp said he was recruited by Tesla, moved to Sparks, Nevada, from Wisconsin and started working at the battery factory in October 2017 as a lead process engineering technician. He was fired June 19.

Tesla filed the lawsuit against Tripp on June 20, three days after Musk warned employees of sabotage from within the company.

In the months prior, Tripp witnessed “several concerning business practices” inconsistent with Tesla’s representations to investors and the general public, according to his counterclaim filed in U.S. District Court in Reno on Tuesday.

Tripp said he repeatedly questioned supervisors about the large quantities of waste and scrap vehicle parts he observed “lying haphazardly on the ground inside the Gigafactory.” But his concerns were never addressed or resolved, Tripp said.

Tripp said he emailed CEO Elon Musk directly about his concerns on May 16 before Musk was scheduled to visit the factory east of Sparks that night. Later that day, Tripp said his manager asked him to forward the email he sent to Musk “so that I can avoid getting fired tonight,” according to the lawsuit.

His counterclaim says a design engineer also told Tripp to clean up the production line area so Musk wouldn’t see the mounds of scrap and waste lying on the ground, but Tripp declined to do so because he wanted Musk “to see how the Gigafactory was actually being operated.” He said he was reassigned to a different position the following day.

Tesla’s original lawsuit said Tripp admitted to Tesla investigators that he wrote software that transferred several gigabytes of data outside the company, including dozens of photographs and a video, according to the lawsuit filed Wednesday. Hacking software from Tripp also was running on three computer systems of other employees “so that the data would be exported even after he left the company and so that those individuals would be falsely implicated,” the lawsuit alleged.

The lawsuit said Tripp made false claims about the information he stole, including claims that Tesla used punctured battery cells in the Model 3, and claims about the amount and value of scrap material generated by Tesla’s manufacturing process. Some of the claims made it into media stories about the company, but media organizations are not identified in the lawsuit.

Tripp, a former aviation electronics technician in the U.S. Navy who worked two decades in the electronic and engineering industries, said in his counterclaim he “did not sabotage Tesla or its operations” and his actions “were necessary, reasonable and/or privileged.”

He acknowledged in the counterclaim that he had made claims about the scrap and punctured battery cells being used in Model 3 vehicles. But he said he did not direct code changes to the Tesla Manufacturing Operating System under false user names or export large amounts of highly sensitive Tesla data as Musk had asserted.

After he was reassigned to a new position, Tripp “learned of and witnessed additional unnerving, dangerous and wasteful business practices,” including employees systematically reusing parts and battery cells that had been previously discarded as waste, the suit said.

The scrap problem dramatically increased in March 2018 when Tesla initiated a company-wide effort to reach its publicized goal of producing 2,500 Model 3 vehicles per week, the lawsuit said. It said the production push — with an objective of making 5,000 vehicles per week by July 2018 — was known as the “March to 2,500.”

ad-high_impact_4
Business
Neon wraps can light up the night for advertising
Vinyl wrap company 5150 Wraps talks about neon wraps, a new technology that the company believes can boost advertising at night. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Nevada on the forefront of drone safety
Dr. Chris Walach, senior director of Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems, talks to a reporter at NIAS's new Nevada Drone Center for Excellence of Public Safety, located inside the Switch Innevation Center in Las Vegas. K.M. Cannon Las Vegas Review-Journal @KMCannonPhoto
Motel 8 on south Strip will become site of hotel-casino
Israeli hoteliers Asher Gabay and Benny Zerah bought Motel 8 on the south Strip for $7.4 million, records show. They plan to bulldoze the property and build a hotel-casino. Motel 8 was built in the 1960s and used to be one of several roadside inns on what's now the south Strip. But it looks out of place today, dwarfed by the towering Mandalay Bay right across the street.
Project billed as one of the world's largest marijuana dispensaries plans to open Nov. 1
Planet 13 co-CEO Larry Scheffler talks about what to expect from the new marijuana dispensary, Thursday, July 19, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Oasis Biotech opens in Las Vegas
Brock Leach, chief operating officer of Oasis Biotech, discusses the new plant factory at its grand opening on July 18. (Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
UNLV Tech Park innovation building breaks ground
Construction on the first innovation building at the UNLV Tech Park is underway. (Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Caesars Forum Meeting Center
Caesars broke ground Monday on its $375 million Caesars Forum Meeting Center (convention center) just east of the High Roller observation wheel. (Caesars Entertainment)
Technology reshapes the pawn shop industry
Devin Battersby attaches a black-colored device to the back of her iPhone and snaps several of the inside and outside of a Louis Vuitton wallet. The device, installed with artificial intelligence capabilities, analyzes the images using a patented microscopic technology. Within a few minutes, Battersby receives an answer on her app. The designer item is authentic.
Recreational marijuana has been legal in Nevada for one year
Exhale Nevada CEO Pete Findley talks about the one year anniversary of the legalization of recreational marijuana in Nevada. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Young adults aren't saving for retirement
Financial advisors talk about saving trends among young adults. (Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
President Trump’s tariffs could raise costs for real estate developers, analysts say
President Donald Trump made his fortune in real estate, but by slapping tariffs on imports from close allies, developers in Las Vegas and other cities could get hit hard.
Las Vegas business and tariffs
Barry Yost, co-owner of Precision Tube Laser, LLC, places a metal pipe into the TruLaser Tube 5000 laser cutting machine on Wednesday, June 20, 2018, in Las Vegas. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Nevada Film Office Connects Businesses To Producers
The director of the Nevada Film Office discusses its revamped locations database and how it will affect local businesses. (Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Opendoor isn't the typical house flipping company
Unlike most house flippers, the company aims to make money from transaction costs rather than from selling homes for more than their purchase price.
The Venetian gondoliers sing Italian songs
Gondolier Marciano sings a the classic Italian song "Volare" as he leads guests through the canals of The Venetian in Las Vegas. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Building In Logandale
Texas homebuilder D.R. Horton bought 43 lots in rural Logandale. (Eli Segall/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Indoor farming in Southern Nevada
Experts discuss Nevada's indoor farming industry. (Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Former Fontainebleau could have become a Waldorf Astoria
Months after developer Steve Witkoff bought the Fontainebleau last summer, he unveiled plans to turn the mothballed hotel into a Marriott-managed resort called The Drew. But if Richard “Boz” Bosworth’s plans didn’t fall through, the north Las Vegas Strip tower could have become a Waldorf Astoria with several floors of timeshare units. (Eli Segall/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
LVCVA CEO Rossi Ralenkotter announces plans to retire
Rossi Ralenkotter, CEO of the LVCVA, on Tuesday confirmed a Las Vegas Review-Journal report that he is preparing to retire. Richard N. Velotta/ Las Vegas Review-Journal
Cousins Maine Lobster to open inside 2 Las Vegas Smith’s stores
Cousins Maine Lobster food truck company will open inside Las Vegas’ two newest Smith’s at Skye Canyon Park Drive and U.S. Highway 95, and at Warm Springs Road and Durango Drive. Cousins currently sells outside some Las Vegas Smith’s stores and at Fremont Street and Las Vegas Boulevard. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas home prices to continue to rise, expert says
Lawrence Yun, chief economist at the National Association of Realtors, gives homebuyers a pulse on the Las Vegas housing market. (Eli Segall/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
NV Energy announces clean energy investment
The company is planning to add six solar projects in Nevada, along with the state's first major battery energy storage capacity. Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal
3 Mario Batali restaurants on Las Vegas Strip to close
Days after new sexual misconduct allegations were made against celebrity chef Mario Batali, his company announced Friday that it will close its three Las Vegas restaurants July 27. Employees of Carnevino Italian Steakhouse, B&B Ristorante and Otto Enoteca e Pizzeria, all located in The Venetian and Palazzo resorts, were informed of the decision Friday morning. Bastianich is scheduled to visit the restaurants Friday to speak to employees about the next two months of operation as well as how the company plans to help them transition to new positions.
Nevada has its first cybersecurity apprenticeship program
The Learning Center education company in Las Vegas has launched the first apprenticeship program for cybersecurity in Nevada. It was approved by the State Apprenticeship Council on May 15. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas union members voting to authorize the right to strike
Thousands of Las Vegas union members voting Tuesday morning to authorize the right to strike. A “yes” vote would give the union negotiating committee the power to call a strike anytime after June 1 at the resorts that fail to reach an agreement. (Todd Prince/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Small businesses struggle to find qualified candidates
A 2018 survey found that over two-thirds of small businesses in Nevada find it somewhat to very difficult to recruit qualified candidates. Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
Circular
You May Like

You May Like