A British cave diver’s defamation lawsuit against Tesla CEO Elon Musk is set to begin in October, according to court documents filed Friday.
Vernon Unsworth sued Musk for defamation in 2018 after the billionaire repeatedly accused the cave diver of being a pedophile. A judge rejected Musk’s claim that he was joking, noting that the mercurial entrepreneur’s claims could be interpreted as a factual statement by a reasonable observer.
“A reasonable fact-finder could easily conclude that statements … implied assertions of objective fact,” district judge Stephen Wilson wrote in the court document. Musk called Unsworth a pedophile on Twitter in 2018 and reiterated those claims later in emails to BuzzFeed.
Musk called Unsworth a “pedo” on social media in July 2018 after the two got into a tit-for-tat after the divider helped rescue a youth soccer team trapped in a flooded cave in Thailand. The Tesla CEO constructed a small submarine to help save the team. Thailand ultimately used Navy SEALs to save the soccer team.
Unsworth is seeking $75,000 of compensatory damages plus unspecified punitive damages in his complaint filed in the U.S. District Court. Musk has gotten into trouble in recent months for his tweeting. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) asked a judge in February to hold Musk in contempt for violating the terms of an agreement requiring Tesla to pre-approve his tweets.
Musk agreed to resolve an SEC probe in October 2018 without admitting or denying wrongdoing. The plan called for their combined $40 million in penalties to be distributed to affected shareholders. He told his Twitter followers in August of that year he secured “funding” to take the company private at $420 per share, far more than the company was worth at the time of the tweet.
The court date is set for Oct. 22. Tesla has not yet responded to The Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.
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