Tesla Requests Retrial for Race Bias Lawsuit that Resulted in $137M Jury Verdict
Written by Maria Merano, Teslarati
Published Oct. 18, 2022
Tesla wants a new trial in its case against former worker Owen Diaz, who sued the company for racial discrimination and was awarded a stunning $137 million jury verdict.
Tesla argued proceeding with a narrower trial focused on the issue of damages would end up violating the constitution.
In a filing in San Francisco federal court on Oct. 14, Tesla’s legal team claimed jurors could not really determine how much damages should be paid to Diaz unless they hear all the evidence related to the former employee’s claims.
Diaz said in a 2017 lawsuit other Tesla employees used racial slurs against him. He also saw swastikas on bathroom walls at the Fremont, CA, plant, and one of his supervisors reportedly drew a racist caricature near his workstation.
Last year, a jury awarded Diaz $137 million, one of the largest awards ever in a single worker discrimination case. In April, however, U.S. District Judge William Orrick said while the jury’s determination Tesla was responsible for discrimination was supported by evidence, the $137 million verdict was excessive.
He reduced the amount to $15 million, but the updated award was not appreciated by the former Tesla employee. Diaz’s lawyers argued the $15 million award was unjust, so a new trial for damages was scheduled.
Orrick is expected to hold a trial for the damages in March. In its recent filing, Tesla’s legal team argued telling the jury the company had already been found liable for tolerating discrimination would end up skewing the case in favor of Diaz, according to a Reuters report. This, according to the Tesla legal team, would violate the company’s right to a fair trial under the U.S. Constitution’s Seventh Amendment.
Tesla also said since the issues of liability and damages are “inextricably interwoven,” Diaz should start from scratch and go for a full retrial.
“The liability and damages here all turn on exactly the same thing: the purported extent, degree and magnitude of racial slurs and symbols Mr. Diaz encountered at the Fremont factory,” Tesla’s legal team wrote.