Tesla has taken a partial win in its lawsuit against the Gigafactory ‘saboteur’, Martin Tripp, a former employee who Tesla is accusing of “hacking” information and giving it to the media and others.
However, the whole situation is not really a good look for the company.
Back in 2018, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said that Tripp had “sabotaged” software in the automaker’s manufacturing system at Gigafactory Nevada and stolen data.
The data was mostly related to the amount of scrap produced by the factory and an allegation of Tesla installing damaged battery cells inside battery packs.
Tesla is suing Tripp for leaking the data, misrepresenting it in the media, and potentially sharing it with other people.
The company was claiming $167 million in damages.
In his defense, Tripp claimed that he is a whistleblower and that the information that he leaked, including the claim that Tesla installed punctured battery cells inside Model 3 battery packs that were delivered to customers, was to expose the company and Musk.
Now a judge in Nevada District court has issued a summary judgement in the case regarding the claims made in the lawsuits.
Tesla has won most of its points except proving the damages for $167 million, which were mostly based on its share price taking a hit after the data released by Tripp became public.
Tripp had asked for summary judgment on several of the claims made in the lawsuit in order to avoid a trial.
The judge sided with him based on the fact that Tesla’s stock price quickly recovered and Tesla’s lawyers didn’t manage to prove causation:
“Tripp’s actions may have harmed Tesla in certain ways, but they did not cause Tesla to lose $167 million dollars in share value. The Court therefore grants Tripp summary judgment on Tesla’s market capitalization damages theory.”
However, on all other judgments, the court has sided with Tesla and therefore, Tripp could still find himself having to pay damages and Tesla’s legal fees, which should be considerable considering the automaker threw an army of lawyers at Tripp.
The case could still go to trial following the summary judgment or they could also settle.
Here’s the summary judgment in full (via Plainsite):
While the judge mostly sided with Tesla, it was often because Tripp’s actions were technically within the descriptions of the violations, but it certainly wasn’t as Elon and Tesla first described what happened.
For example, Elon accused Tripp of “hacking” the data out of Tesla.
It seems that Tripp in fact had access to that data as an employee, but the judge sided with Tesla on that point since the Nevada Computer Crimes Law also includes transferring data that you aren’t supposed to transfer, which Tripp did.
That’s not quite “hacking”.
I have to say, after digging into the lawsuit and all the documents that were released, I think Tesla is just as much in the wrong, if not more, than Tripp in this case.
In my opinion, Tripp was an overzealous employee who was frustrated by his superior not taking his claims of Tesla’s inefficiency at the plant and producing too much scrap and after trying to run it up the chain all the way to Elon without success, he decided to go to the media.
Should he have done that? Probably not. A big factory is going to produce a lot of scrap.
Also, I don’t think there’s any evidence that he was part of a TSLA short seller scheme like Elon and Tesla superfans have been claiming.
However, after going public, he definitely found support within the TSLA short community, but is that really surprising? Of course TSLA shorts would jump on that.
Now on Tesla’s side, I think they went on a full-on character assassination protocol that was completely unwarranted.
The fact that Elon personally reached out to journalists to share that Tesla got an anonymous tip about Tripp potentially planning a mass shooting at Gigafactory Nevada is strange, to say the least.
But then Tesla’s PR department actively propagated that information to even more members of the press after the police confirmed that the tip wasn’t accurate and that there was no threat.
That’s just wrong and a bad look for Tesla in my opinion.
I don’t know what is going to happen next, but I wish they would settle without it going any further.
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