Avoiding what would have been its first personal injury lawsuit trial, Tesla Motors settled a claim with an injured worker for $13 million but said a staffing agency, West Valley Staffing Group, “will pay the bulk of the settlement.”
The complaint filed against Tesla says on Aug. 12, 2014, Teodora Tapia was working as a janitor at Tesla’s Fremont, CA, assembly plant. While she was mopping up a puddle of water, Joseph Aguilar was trying to move a European Tesla Model S sedan from one part of the warehouse to another when he lost control of the vehicle and crashed into Tapia, pinning her lower extremities between the bumpers of his and another vehicle. The complaint says Aguilar struck Tapia a second time, pinning her again between the two vehicles.
Tapia suffered “serious and permanent injuries to her lower extremities and body.” Tapia, who was employed by Flagship Facility Services, was left with a permanent disability and is unable to work and provide for her family.
The Parris Law Firm which represented Tapia says Aguilar wasn’t familiar with the different controls of the European Tesla and wasn’t certified to drive it. Aguilar was an employee of West Valley Staffing Group. Despite saying the staffing agency would pay “the bulk” of the settlement, Tesla agreed it shared liability.
The settlement occurred one day after a jury was seated to hear the case against the electric car manufacturer.
Tesla’s workplace safety record had been questioned previously.
In 2018, the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH) included the automaker in its annual Dirty Dozen because it had 31% higher recordable injuries than the industry average. Tesla claims it’s reduced its injury rates, but a recent investigation alleges the company didn’t report some types of injuries, making its injury rates look better than they were. Tesla rejects the allegation.