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Walmart, Tesla pause in legal fight over fiery solar panels

Source: 
Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — Walmart's lawsuit against Tesla over fiery rooftop solar panels is being sealed by the court and both companies say they look forward to addressing all issues.

Walmart sued Tesla for "gross negligence" Tuesday, saying that the electric car company's energy division installed solar panels that went up in flames on its store rooftops.

In joint statements Friday, the companies said they look forward to re-activating the panels once both sides are certain that all concerns have been addressed.

"Together, we look forward to pursuing our mutual goal of a sustainable energy future," said the statements. "Above all else, both companies want each and every system to operate reliably, efficiently, and safely."

Neither company would say if the lawsuit had been dropped, but New York State Supreme Court records show it was "returned for correction," and it was not accessible online Friday.

Walmart said fires broke out at seven stores between 2012 and 2018, causing millions of dollars in damage. One location in Ohio had to be closed for eight days, Walmart said in the complaint.

Inspections found that several of Tesla's solar panels were broken and that wires were hanging out, causing a fire hazard. In its lawsuit, Walmart said Tesla Inc., based in Palo Alto, California, engaged in "widespread, systemic negligence" and "failed to abide by prudent industry practices in installing, operating, and maintaining its solar systems."

Walmart said it had deals with Tesla Energy, formerly known as SolarCity, to install and maintain solar panels on 244 Walmart stores.

In May of last year, Walmart said it demanded that Tesla disconnect all the solar panel systems it had installed. But Walmart said another fire still occurred at a California store, even though the panels had been disconnected for several months. The company said that the wires on the store's rooftop were still sparking when it discovered the fire.

Walmart said it later found out that Tesla ignored an alert from that store's solar panels, which Walmart said was the likely cause of the fire. In the court documents, Walmart said ignoring the alert reveals "Tesla's utter incompetence or callousness, or both."

Walmart Inc., based in Bentonville, Arkansas, did not specify how much money it is seeking from Tesla in the lawsuit filed in New York State Supreme Court, saying that the amount would be determined at trial.

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