Dispute Tesla’s Reliance on 91-Year-Old Supreme Court Decision as Requiring Complete Retrial
Nov. 4, 2022 – On behalf of plaintiff Owen Diaz, a former employee of Tesla at its automobile manufacturing facility in Freemont, California, Altshuler Berzon LLP today filed a brief in the Northern District of California opposing Tesla’s efforts to obtain a retrial of a unanimous jury verdict that found Tesla liable under 42 U.S.C. §1981 and California state law for repeated, egregious episodes of racial harassment and for negligent supervision of its own supervisors and of Mr. Diaz’s co-workers.
After the first trial, the federal court jury found Tesla liable on both claims for relief and awarded $6.9 million compensatory damages and $130 million in punitive damages. In response to Tesla’s post-trial motion for judgment as a matter of law or, alternatively, a new trial, the federal district court concluded that the evidence amply supported the jury’s liability findings but offered Mr. Diaz the choice between accepting a reduction in damages to $15 million or a new trial limited to compensatory and punitive damages only. Mr. Diaz accepted the damages-only retrial.
Months later, Tesla filed a motion arguing that a retrial limited to damages only would violate its Seventh Amendment right to jury under Gasoline Prods. Co., Inc. v. Champlin Refining Co., 283 U.S. 494, 500 (1931), and that any retrial, to be fair, would have to include all liability issues as well.
Opposing that motion, Altshuler Berzon LLP attorneys, who have been assisting the trial team led by Bernard Alexander and Larry Organ in all post-trial and appellate matters, argued that Tesla long ago waived any right to argue against a damages-only retrial and that, in any event, Gasoline Products did not entitle Tesla to a complete retrial. Plaintiff’s brief demonstrated that Tesla had a full and fair opportunity to assert these arguments earlier but instead argued that if the district court found sufficient evidence to support the jury’s liability verdict, it should order a damages-only retrial. Plaintiff also demonstrated in detail why the court’s limited retrial order was well within its discretion and would not violate Tesla’s rights, constitutional or otherwise, whereas ordering a complete retrial at this stage would deprive Mr. Diaz of his rights to a fair trial, due process, and trial by jury.
The motion is set to be argued on December 7, 2022.