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Tesla Data Leak Lawsuit Against Former Employee: Status Update

A federal judge in Reno, Nevada has tossed a portion of Tesla’s lawsuit against Martin Tripp, a former employee, in which the electric car maker claimed its market value shrunk by $167 million as a result of his stealing and then leaking proprietary data to a media outlet.

Chief Judge Miranda Du ruled Tesla failed to show that Tripp’s disclosure of the company’s confidential information directly affected its market value, Reuters reported. However, Du let stand Tesla’s claims that Tripp’s alleged unauthorized use of data might have violated a Nevada computer crimes law, justifying its request for punitive damages. It’s not clear if the hacker acted alone or with “any outside organizations.”

Du also dismissed Tripp’s defamation counterclaim in which he asserted that statements made by Tesla chief executive Elon Musk or Tesla’s communications staff were false and malicious. Tripp had worked as a process technician at Tesla’s Nevada Gigafactory for less than eight months company investigators confronted him.

Last June, Tesla sued Tripp, claiming he wrote code to break into its manufacturing operating system and subsequently transmitted “several gigabytes” of confidential and trade secret information to outsiders, the company claims. Tripp said he was a whistleblower who was dismayed by the company’s practices, in one instance charging that punctured battery cells had been used in some Tesla Model 3 cars.

The lawsuit, which was filed in U.S. District Court in Nevada, alleges that Tripp sent “dozens” of confidential photographs and a video of Tesla’s manufacturing systems to unidentified third parties. The complaint specifically states that as part of his job Tripp had access to proprietary information, including “certain facets of the manufacturing process for the company’s battery module.”

Tripp had apparently been on the job as a process technician at Tesla’s Nevada Gigafactory less than eight months before he was confronted by company investigators.

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