Jury: Elon Musk did not defame British caver in tweet

Andrew Cummings
December 7, 2019

A federal court jury in Los Angeles has found in favour of Tesla boss Elon Musk in the defamation lawsuit brought against him by a British cave explorer he branded "pedo guy" on Twitter.

There is a photo in which Vernon Unsworth is standing next to Theresa May in front of 10 Downing Street, where the former British prime minister gave a hero's welcome to the divers who helped rescue 12 boys and their soccer coach from a flooded cave in Thailand.

Musk fired off the tweet after Unsworth called his effort to use a mini submarine to rescue the soccer players in 2018 a PR stunt.

Spiro also said Unsworth failed to demonstrate that he suffered any harm from Musk's comments, which the South African-born businessman apologized for in court earlier in the week.

"When Elon Musk tweets something, it goes around the world", his attorney added.

Alex Spiro, Mr Musk's lawyer, argued that the "pedo guy" tweet was an offhand comment made in the course of an argument between the two men, which no-one could be expected to take seriously.

Vernon Unsworth had sought a $190 million judgement. Unsworth told CNN that Musk could "stick his submarine where it hurts". Musk also hired a private investigator to dig into Unsworth's personal life and leak information to British tabloids.

They ruled that his series of tweets past year that referenced Unsworth as a "pedo guy" and promised a "signed dollar" if it was true were not defamatory.

He apologised to Mr Unsworth several times during his testimony and insisted his "pedo guy" tweet did not mean he was accusing the caver of being a paedophile.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk, second from left, arrives at US District Court in Los Angeles on December 4.

Unsworth had ridiculed Musk's effort to help in the rescue by having engineers at his companies, including Space X and The Boring Co., develop a mini-submarine to transport the boys.

Testifying over two days on Tuesday and Wednesday, Mr Musk told the court he did not expect the "pedo" tweet to be taken literally. Wells tweeted that the foreman said the jury's criteria included whether Musk had used the same insult on others, whether it was true or false, whether a reasonable person would think he was calling the diver a pedophile, and whether Musk tried to determine that it was true. 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 United Kingdom, I feel isolated".

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