Tesla wins lawsuit in China against roof-top protesting lady car owner

Tesla wins lawsuit in China against roof-top protesting lady car owner

The lady, who protested by getting on top of a Tesla show car during the 2021 Shanghai auto show, was ordered to apologize to Tesla and pay damages of RMB 172,275 ($23,810) in a first instance ruling.

(A file photo circulating on Weibo shows Ms. Zhang protesting at the Tesla booth at the April 2021 Shanghai auto show.)

Tesla (NASDAQ: TSLA) won a first trial against a female owner who protested at the April 2021 Shanghai auto show, marking an important development in a lawsuit that has lasted three years.

The Shanghai Qingpu District People’s Court issued a first-instance verdict on May 30, requiring the owner — Ms. Zhang — to issue a public apology and compensate Tesla for damages totaling RMB 172,275 ($23,810), local media outlet The Paper reported today.

On April 19, 2021, at the Tesla booth at the Shanghai auto show, Ms. Zhang stood on the roof of a Tesla show car wearing a T-shirt that could be translated as “Brake Failure” in a protest that attracted widespread attention.

The protest came after the owner’s father was involved in an accident while driving her car home, claiming that the car accelerated instead of slowing down when he braked, causing him to rear-end multiple cars.

The local traffic police determined that Zhang’s father caused the accident by driving the vehicle in violation of the traffic code and was fully responsible for the accident. Ms. Zhang disputed this and alleged that the Tesla’s brake failed.

Ms. Zhang did not provide any evidence to prove that the vehicle in question had faulty brakes, and she explicitly admitted at trial that her claim of brake failure was subjective, The Paper reported, citing the court’s first-instance decision.

During the trial, Ms. Zhang did not apply for a judicial appraisal of whether the vehicle’s brakes failed, according to the ruling.

According to the public security authorities, the traffic accident was caused by the driver’s failure to maintain a safe distance from the vehicle in front that was sufficient to take emergency braking measures, and was therefore fully responsible, the judgment said.

Ms. Zhang’s actions, which were rashly carried out without any objective basis to prove the existence of brake failure in the vehicle, constitute defamation, according to the judgment.

She shouted on the roof of the show car at the auto show that the brakes were not working, and deliberately leveraged the media to quickly and widely disseminate the untruthful information, and her words and actions clearly had the subjective intent and fault of disparaging Tesla’s reputation, the court said.

The court rejected Ms. Zhang’s defense that she was not subjectively at fault, according to the report.

Meanwhile, Tesla also won a first-instance judgment in another case with a car blogger.

The blogger — Feng Shiming — had all of his claims rejected by the court in his case against Tesla for violating his right to reputation, and was ordered to apologize to Tesla as well as pay RMB 250,000 in financial damages, according to another report from The Paper.

During Ms. Zhang’s protest at the 2021 Shanghai auto show, Feng was questioned by Tesla as the mastermind of the farce, according to The Paper.

In a Weibo post, Feng denied Tesla’s claims, saying that he merely passed on a media day pass to Ms. Zhang.

Giving some non-essential assistance to a normal act of rights protection is not the same as organizing and planning to get the lady on the roof of the car, Feng said.

Feng sued Tesla in 2021, alleging that the EV maker defamed him as the mastermind of the farce, which led to a lot of cyber violence against him.

In early 2022, Tesla filed a countersuit against the case, claiming RMB 5 million from him, The Paper cited Feng as saying, adding that on May 20 of this year, he learned from his lawyer that Tesla withdrew its countersuit.

($1 = RMB 7.2357)

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