Tesla Contract Worker Sues Company Over Burn Injuries

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By Fatima Hussein

A Tesla Motors Inc. contract worker is suing the company in California court after suffering second- and third-degree, full-body burns in a fiery explosion at the company’s Fremont, Calif., plant in June 2017.

In his complaint filed May 21, Son Nguyen claims his injuries are so extensive from the explosion that threw him 15 to 20 feet, he now suffers from permanent orthopedic and neurological traumatic brain injuries, “among other catastrophic permanent injuries,” according to the complaint.

Nguyen is suing Tesla Motors Inc. along with “Does 1 to 50,” companies associated with Tesla, according to the complaint.

Nguyen’s lawsuit claims Tesla maintains an environment of hazardous work conditions, by using old, used, and unsafe equipment in its manufacturing processes.

Nguyen said Tesla “prioritized production numbers over the safety of workers, did not want to disrupt production activities at the Tesla plant, even though defendants, and each of them, had specific knowledge that de-energization of the busway was a proper safety pre-caution for the safety of Plaintiff and Plaintiffs employer in performing electrical work at the worksite,” according to the complaint.

A Tesla representative was unavailable for comment when Bloomberg Environment contacted the company late May 22.

Installing Vehicle Stations

Nguyen was hired to work at the plant as an electrician trainee by Mark III Construction, a Sacramento-based firm, and was tasked with installing 36 supercharger electric vehicle stations at the Fremont plant.

On June 5, 2017, a California Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspection notice says Nguyen “was engaged in wiring a bus plug,” when the explosion—a type of electrical explosion known as an arc flash—occurred.

After the explosion, Nguyen was hospitalized and treated for burns to his chest, face, arms, and hands.

Investigators subsequently gathered information indicating that the arc flash occurred when a ground wire fell and made contact with live wires, the OSHA report states.

Mark III Construction’s scope of work included installing bus plugs, cables, and conduits, among other electrical equipment to transmit electricity from the busway to the electric charging stations.

Mark III is not a party in the lawsuit, however, on the date of the incident, Cal/OSHA inspectors cited Mark III for the incident, not Tesla. The company was fined $52,800.

A representative from the company declined to comment to Bloomberg Environment May 22.

The lawsuit was filed in California Superior Court May 21.

Annie Wu, Nguyen’s attorney—along with Anthony L. Label— at the Veen Firm PC, declined to comment on pending litigation.

The case is Nguyen v. Tesla, Inc., Cal. Super. Ct., RG18905617, 5/21/18.

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