A jury in Los Angeles has returned a-not-liable verdict for Elon Musk, Tesla’s founder, in the defamatory suit filed by British diver Vernon Unsworth.
Unsworth sued Musk following a tweet in which Musk referred to him as a ‘pedo guy’, meaning a pedophile. The tweet was triggered by Unsworth’s dismissal as PR stunt, a mini-submarine developed by Tesla to rescue Thai soccer kids trapped in a flooded cave in July 2018.
Unsworth brought the suit after Musk doubled down on his accusation, describing Unsworth as a “child rapist” in August 2018 emails to Buzzfeed. He claimed in court this week that since “being branded a pedophile” by Musk, he has felt “vulnerable and sometimes, when I’m in the U.K., I feel isolated.”. He sued Musk for $190million in damages.
But after a three-day trial, Musk was found not liable for defamation in a federal court.
The jury ultimately decided Musk’s outburst wasn’t meant as a statement of fact.
Musk, like Donald Trump, is an avid user of Twitter and this was not the first time his tweets have landed him in hot water.
A tweet-related battle with the US Securities and Exchange Commission last year ultimately cost Musk $20 million and his role as chairman of Tesla for at least three years.
As part of the settlement, Musk also agreed to a condition stipulating that he get pre-approval before sending social media posts containing information that is “material” to Tesla investors.
In April of this year, the two sides struck an updated deal that narrowed the scope of what Musk can’t tweet about without first receiving outside approval.