Tesla CEO Elon Musk was found not liable for defamation in a Los Angeles federal court on Friday.
CNBC reports that Tesla CEO and SpaceX founder Elon Musk has been found not liable for defamation in a Los Angeles federal court. The case related to Musk’s smears about British cave rescuer Vern Unsworth who Musk referred to as a “pedo guy” in a series of tweets.
The jury in the case reportedly deliberated for only one hour before delivering its verdict. “My faith in humanity is restored,” said Musk in the courtroom following the verdict. It was previously reported that during cross-examination by one of Musk’s lawyers, Unsworth was asked if he would apologize for his comments about Musk and his efforts during the rescue of 12 boys and their soccer coach from Tham Luang Nang Non cave in Thailand in July 2018.
Unsworth referred to Musk’s plans to use a miniature submarine to save the boys as a “PR stunt” and told Musk he could “stick his submarine where it hurts.” Unsworth told Musk’s lawyers during the trial: “I’m not sure how I need to apologize. It was my opinion at the time and I stand by that opinion.”
In his closing arguments, Unsworth’s lawyer L. Lin Wood called Musk a “liar” and referred to him as a “billionaire bully.” Wood argued that Musk’s comments to his tens of millions of Twitter followers had “dropped a nuclear bomb on Vernon Unsworth,” and the fallout would last for decades.
Wood sought damages of $190 million in total for Unsworth, which included $5 million in actual damages, $35 million in assumed damages and punitive damages of $150 million. This would have amounted to less than one percent of Musk’s estimated $20 billion net worth.
Musk’s lawyer, Alex Spiro, argued that Musk’s comments about Unsworth were simply insults and not statements of fact and that Unsworth was simply telling the jury: “I’ve been horribly damaged. Pay me lots of money,” but had failed to prove he had actually been damaged as a result of Musk’s tweets. Spiro’s arguments appeared to convince the jury which ruled in Musk’s favor.