Martin Tripp, a former technician at Tesla’s Gigafactory turned whistleblower, is embroiled in a nasty lawsuit with the EV manufacturer and recently released court documents show that Tesla is not taking Tripp’s alleged “sabotage” lightly. The company wants Tripp to pay $167 million in damages for public statements he’s made that Tesla claims are false.
Tripp’s story first came to prominence in June when he went public with his accusations that Tesla sold hundreds of Model 3s with punctured batteries, and cut numerous corners that endangered workers and drivers. His decision to come forward was apparently prompted by Tesla’s filing of a lawsuit that accused him of stealing confidential information and hacking its computers. A bonkers email exchange between Tripp and Tesla CEO Elon Musk, which took place just before the suit was filed, showed that there was clearly bad blood between these guys but didn’t clear up who was telling the truth. In July, Tripp countersued Tesla for defamation and filed a formal whistleblower claim with the SEC that appears to still be unresolved.
A new case management report was published by a Nevada district court on November 27 and was first noticed by CNBC on Tuesday. The biggest news from the filing is that Tesla wants big money from Tripp. Very few details about Tripp’s claims against the company are publicly available. He did tweet out numerous photos and documents in August that he alleged would bolster his case about the company’s unsafe practices but he quickly deleted the account and has kept a low profile since then. Still, Tesla apparently believes his limited allegations caused $167 million in damages to the company. The two parties are also arguing over Tesla’s reluctance to provide more than 10 witnesses for discovery and resistance to making Musk available for questioning.
Tesla declined Gizmodo’s request for comment on this story.
Tripp’s attorney, Robert D. Mitchell, told CNBC that the “purported damage amount claimed by Tesla relates to supposed dips in Tesla’s stock price by virtue of the information Mr. Tripp provided to the press last summer.” He characterized this notion as “absurd.”
While Tesla’s stock price did go on a roller coaster ride this summer, there have been many factors involved and Tripp has never been at the top of anyone’s mind. Investors feared that Tesla would not be able to meet its mid-summer production goals, a feat that it accomplished but analysts were still worried. Tesla’s stock price started going up in August, peaking on the 7th when Musk fired off his infamous “420 tweet,” claiming that he was considering taking the company private with backing from Saudi funds. For the next two months, the price nose-dived as we were treated to a bizarre interview with a crying Elon and an SEC investigation that resulted in Musk stepping down as Chairman. These days, the future seems brighter for Tesla but for some reason, Elon is still crying during interviews.
Gizmodo asked Tripp’s attorney if he plans to argue that the damages that were allegedly caused by his client’s disclosures were actually the result of Musk’s own actions. Mitchell replied by email: “Yes, we do. Our expert report will be disclosed on December 21 refuting those alleged damages.”