In uphill battle, Hawaii man takes legal action over alleged Tesla defects

Published: Jul. 28, 2021 at 7:16 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - When Big Island attorney Jerry Hiatt was driving his son to the Kona Airport in 2019, he noticed that the glass roof of his Tesla Model 3 was beginning to detach.

“At this point, when I drive the car, I need to duct tape the gaps. You don’t think you’d have to duct tape a car together in order for it to function,” said Hiatt.

Hiatt said what’s frustrating is that he had just gotten the car back from the manufacturer to fix other alleged defects.

The under body panel on the rear of the vehicle fell off and the glass panel had developed cracks in it, he said.

“Tesla sent out a roving technician to look at the problem. He said the glass had been improperly installed during production and he said the rear under body panel was missing a few bolts,” said Hiatt.

Around the same time Hiatt’s Model 3 was built, multiple national media organizations reported Tesla was having production problems because of the demand for the new cars.

Hiatt said he wanted Tesla to replace the car but the company balked, forcing him to go to court.

Tesla did not respond to request for comment but in court papers, company lawyers said Hiatt waived his right to sue when he signed his purchase agreement for the car.

They allege the dispute should be settled through the arbitration process

Hiatt’s attorney Jim Bickerton disputes the company’s account.

“Tesla contends that he agreed to it when he clicked on something. But I have not seen his hand written signature on it,” said Bickerton.

Bickerton added that the arbitration process is heavily in favor of the company and puts consumers at a disadvantage.

“We do think that the provisions in the agreement that Tesla is trying to enforce are unfair and deceptive by Hawaii consumer standards,” Bickerton said.

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