Judge denies 3rd trial for Tesla discrimination case that once had a $137M jury verdict

Credit: @_bennettm_/Twitter

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

In a written order, Judge Orrick upheld a $3.2 million verdict that was awarded to Diaz in April. With this, both Diaz’s motion for a new trial and Tesla’s bid to cut the award were rejected. Judge Orrick noted in his order that 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 had awarded Diaz $137 million back in 2021, and it was considered one of the largest ever for an individual suing over discrimination in the United States. Judge Orrick, however, later noted that the verdict was excessive. The award was reduced to $15 million, but Diaz rejected the amount. His rejection of the $15 million triggered a retrial, as noted in a Reuters report.

The retrial did not work in the former Tesla employee’s favor, as it resulted in the damages for the case 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 Judge 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 that Tesla’s legal team had asked improper questions, accused a witness of lying, and made misleading statements to the jury. Judge Orrick, for his part, noted that 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 already 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.

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Judge denies 3rd trial for Tesla discrimination case that once had a $137M jury verdict
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