Enlarge /. The Tesla Gigafactory is under construction in 2016. Tripp will start work there the following year.
Troy Harvey / Bloomberg via Getty Images
A federal judge in Nevada has dismissed a defamation case of former Tesla employee Martin Tripp against his former employer. At the same time, Judge Miranda Du refused to deny Tesla's allegation that Tripp violated Nevada's computer crime law by providing Tesla confidential information to a reporter.
Tripp became known to the public in early 2018 when he told several news organizations – including Ars Technica – that he had evidence that Tesla was wasting raw materials and exaggerating its advances in producing 5,000 Model 3 cars per week. When someone claiming to be a friend of Tripp called Tesla to warn that Tripp was heavily armed and "could come back and shoot people," Tesla repeated the claim to news organizations. The allegation turned out to be unfounded.
Tesla sued Tripp for violating trade secrets and computer crime laws. Tripp sued for defamation over the shooting claims. In a ruling on Thursday, Du denied Tripp's libel claims but allowed some of Tesla's claims to go to court.
While the case is ongoing, the judge's decision is a ominous sign for Tripp. During the trial, Tripp and Tesla will attempt to compile a factual record to show that Tripp may or may not have violated trade secret and computer crime laws. But it is not clear what facts could save Tripp here.
"Tripp had a duty not to divulge Tesla's confidential information," Du wrote. "Tripp understood, but still shared information with [reporter Linette] Lopez that he knew he was not authorized to share with her. A reasonable matter could reasonably determine that Tripp was acting in deliberate disregard of Tesla's rights . "
Tripp could face an uphill battle and convince a jury that he wasn't breaking the law.