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Tesla challenges $137 million verdict in ex-worker’s racism case

Tesla Inc. asked a judge to set aside a jury’s $137 million verdict in favor of a contract worker who accused the company of failing to protect him from rampant racism in its northern California factory and order a new trial.

The Oct. 4 award to Owen Diaz by jurors in San Francisco federal court is believed to be one of the largest in U.S. history for an individual plaintiff in a racial discrimination case. 

A juror in the case told Bloomberg News the panel’s decision to award $130 million in punitive damages was meant to prod Tesla executives to “take the most basic preventative measures and precautions they neglected to take as a large corporation to protect any employee within their factory.”

The punitive award is vulnerable to being cut in half because, under legal precedents, it’s disproportionately high relative to the $6.9 million the jury awarded Diaz for emotional distress, according to Arizona State University law professor Michael Selmi.

 

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