Tesla chief executive Elon Musk will have to go to trial to defend himself for mocking a British diver as a “pedo guy” in a verbal sparring match that unfolded after the underwater rescue of youth soccer players trapped in a Thailand cave.
- The Tesla boss made the post after Vernon Unsworth declared his mini-submarine idea a “PR stunt”
- Mr Unsworth is seeking $US75,000 in damages from the billionaire
- Mr Musk wanted the judge to dismiss his case as he believed the insult was protected from legal action
A federal court judge in Los Angeles set an October 22 trial date in a court filing that rejected Mr Musk’s attempt to dismiss a defamation lawsuit filed by British diver Vernon Unsworth.
Mr Musk called Mr Unsworth a “pedo” in a July 15 post on his Twitter account after Mr Unsworth, in an interview with CNN, dismissed Mr Musk’s attempts to help rescue the boys as a “PR stunt”.
Mr Unsworth also derided the submarine that Mr Musk had built for a rescue mission, prompting Mr Musk to lash back via his Twitter account, which had 22.5 million followers at the time.
Mr Musk contended his insult was protected from legal action, but the judge overseeing the case disagreed.
Mr Unsworth is seeking more than $US75,000 ($107,153) in damages from Mr Musk, a multi-billionaire.
The suit also seeks a court order prohibiting Mr Musk from making any further disparaging comments.
This is the second time in less than a year that Mr Musk’s free-wheeling comments on Twitter have saddled him with legal headaches.
Last year, Mr Musk and Tesla reached a $40 million settlement of allegations that he misled investors with a tweet declaring he had secured financing for a buyout of the electric car maker.
He then had to go to court earlier this year to defend himself against assertions that he had violated an agreement with the Securities and Exchange Commission about his tweeting.