The American electric car manufacturer Tesla set a goal for its California production facility to churn out 5,000 Model S vehicles each week. This set off a frenzy of activity at the Fremont plant, but as reported by Silicon Valley Business Journal, there is a possibility that overly ambitious production goals may have contributed to a $13 million permanent disability settlement and a variety of safety violation fines.
A Tesla employee was performing janitorial work at the Fremont, California Tesla plant when hit by a Model S vehicle another employee was operating. The crash pinned her against a second vehicle. The employee operating the Model S attempted to back away to release the pinned janitor but instead hit her again. The second hit crushed her legs and rendered her permanently disabled.
Uncertified Model S driver and unsafe work environment may have contributed
The injured worker’s complaint alleges that the Tesla employee driving the crash vehicle did not have the required employer certification to operate the Model S electric car. The complaint also claims she worked in an unsafe factory environment. As a result of the manufacturer’s alleged negligence, the injured janitor remains permanently disabled and can no longer work to provide for her family.
Almost four years after the accident, Tesla agreed to settle the case for $13 million. If the personal injury case had instead proceeded to a jury trial, it would have been the vehicle manufacturer’s first. The settlement agreement came only one day after the completion of the proposed trial’s jury selection.
Other incidents may have gone unreported
As Silicon Valley Business Journal has noted, safety regulators in California have hit Tesla with nearly $30,000 in safety violation fines for infractions found at the same plant at which the injured janitor worked. Federal OSHA inspectors discovered six safety hazards in 2018. California state regulators were also looking into another incident which pinned an employee, in this case by a forklift.
Injured workers, especially if they have incurred long-term or permanent disabilities, may wish to consider seeking civil remedies for any negligence that may have contributed to their pain and suffering. In cases in which unsafe work conditions played a role, an assertive personal injury civil action may effectively argue that preventable life-altering workplace injuries are cause for both compensatory and punitive damages.