November 5, 2019 / 4:37 PM / 13 days ago

Tesla settles with Walmart over solar panel installations, fires

FILE PHOTO: A sign is seen outside the Tesla Inc. Gigafactory 2, which is also known as RiverBend, a joint venture with Panasonic to produce solar panels and roof tiles in Buffalo, New York, U.S., August 2, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Walmart Inc has settled its lawsuit accusing Tesla Inc of negligence in installing solar panels atop hundreds of the retailer’s stores and causing at least seven fires.

In a joint statement on Tuesday, the companies said they were “pleased to have resolved the issues raised by Walmart” concerning the installations, and looked forward to “a safe re-energization of our sustainable energy systems.”

Walmart had sued Tesla for breach of contract on Aug. 20 in a New York state court in Manhattan, seeking to have its solar panels removed from more than 240 stores.

The Bentonville, Arkansas-based retailer said the fires occurred between 2012 and 2018. It voluntarily ended its lawsuit without prejudice, meaning the world’s largest retailer could sue again if something goes wrong.

Terms of the settlement were not disclosed. Walmart had no immediate additional comment. Tesla and its respective lawyers did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Tesla, which is better known for its electric cars, acquired the solar business known as Tesla Energy Operations in 2016 when it paid $2.6 billion for the former SolarCity Corp.

Walmart had accused Tesla of “widespread, systematic negligence” and ignoring prudent industry practices by relying on untrained and unsupervised personnel to install and maintain its panels, and prioritizing speed and profit over safety.

Tesla’s solar panel market share has been falling, prompting the Palo Alto, California-based company to cut its sales force.

Revenue from Tesla’s energy generation and storage operations from January to September fell 7% from a year earlier to $1.1 billion.

Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Bernadette Baum

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