Judge Denies 3rd Trial for Tesla Discrimination Case That Once Had $137M Jury Verdict


The plaintiff's lawyers asked for another trial based on their claims Tesla's legal team had engaged in misconduct.

A federal judge in California rejected former Tesla Fremont, CA, factory elevator operator Owen Diaz’s appeal for a third trial in his racial discrimination case against the electric carmaker. In doing so, U.S. District Judge William Orrick rejected claims that Tesla’s legal team had engaged in misconduct.

In a written order, Orrick upheld a $3.2 million verdict that was awarded to Diaz in April, rejecting both Diaz’s motion for a new trial and Tesla’s bid to cut the award. Orrick noted in his order the verdict was justified “in light of the endemic racism at the Tesla factory and Tesla’s repeated failure to rectify it.”

A different jury awarded Diaz $137 million in 2021, one of the largest awards ever for an individual suing over discrimination in the U.S. Orrick, however, later ruled the verdict was excessive. The award was reduced to $15 million, but Diaz rejected it, triggering a retrial, as noted in a Reuters report.

The retrial did not work in Owens' favor, as it resulted in the damages being lowered further to $3.2 million, 97.6% less than the initial $137 million jury verdict from 2021. Diaz’s legal team then asked Orrick for another trial, while Tesla’s legal team requested a 45% reduction in punitive damages awarded to the former employee.

Diaz’s legal team, in their efforts to secure a retrial, argued Tesla’s legal team had asked improper questions, accused a witness of lying and made misleading statements to the jury. Orrick ruled any alleged misconduct by Tesla’s legal team did not have a significant enough impact on the trial to have unfairly influenced the jury’s decision.

Diaz’s lawyer, Lawrence Organ, said he is considering an appeal. He did, however, note that even the $3.2 million award was substantial.

“Courts don’t typically uphold large, multimillion-dollar awards in these cases, so from that standpoint, this is clearly a victory for Diaz and for civil rights,” Organ said.

We thank Teslarati for reprint permission.

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