A former Chief of Electrification for Small Ag and Turf at Deere & Company has filed a lawsuit against the company in the 14th Judicial Circuit Court in Rock Island.

In a copy of the filing obtained by Local 4 News, plaintiff Daniel J. White of Bettendorf says he accepted a position with Deere in writing on or about January 12, 2022 and started on or about February 16, 2022. During the week of June 20, 2022, he visited Kreisel Electric Inc, an Austrian company that manufactures electric battery modules. Deere acquired a majority ownership in the company in February 2022. During the visit, White identified what he perceived to be safety issues with the batteries, specifically with the immersion cooling, that could lead to safety issues “including but not limited to electrical shock, delayed or immediate catastrophic thermal runaway event, and hydrogen explosion as a result of water contamination within the battery coolant or a foreseeable mistake by an operator, owner, technician, mechanic, engineer or other individual working on the vehicle where they fill the  battery with a more common coolant instead of the currently proprietary battery coolant.”

The suit further states that White repeatedly brought the concerns to superiors, including Jenny Preston, Director of John Deere Electric Powertrain and CEO of Kreisel Electric, and Pierre Guyot, Senior Vice President John Deere Power Systems and Chairman of Kreisel Electric, but was told he must continue to use Kreisel technology. In September 2022, Preston told White he was not allowed to conduct any testing on Kreisel batteries. On October 19, 2022, a competitor of Deere’s other divisions experienced a catastrophic battery fire in a battery powered zero turn radius mower at the world’s largest equipment show. White again raised concerns with senior leadership after the fire at the equipment show and said that the explosion was likely from water contamination. He met with Mark Von Pentz, President of Agriculture & Turf and Josh Jepsen, Senior Vice President and CFO on October 25, 2022 to discuss his concerns. On October 31 or November 1, 2022, Deere terminated White.

The suit claims that White “has sustained damages including loss of salary and fringe benefits, retirement benefits and employer contribution to health insurance and Plaintiff also suffered physical and mental pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, embarrassment, humiliation, anxiety and other damages.” The suit asks for damages in an amount in excess of $75,000.

In a second count, White requested an Order of Declaratory Judgement against Deere regarding his Retention Agreement. According to the filing. White and Deere entered into the Agreement on or about January 12, 2022, stating that the Employee (White) was to remain employed for a Retention Period from January 31, 2022 to January 15, 2024 and “the Company shall pay Employee lump sum payment in the net amount of $1,500,000.” Deere made the Retention Payment. When Deere fired White, they claimed that he should have to repay the Retention Payment because he was terminated for “Cause.” However, no unsatisfactory comments were found in White’s 2022 performance form filled out by his supervisor.