The head of Tesla, Elon Musk, was acquitted of defamation in the tweet trial of 'fart guy'
LOS ANGELES: head of Tesla Inc Elon musk He emerged victorious on Friday from a libel trial when a federal court jury quickly rejected the $ 190 million claim filed against him by a British cave explorer that Musk had qualified as a fart on Twitter.
The unanimous verdict of a jury of five women and three men was returned after approximately 45 minutes of deliberation on the fourth day of Musk's trial. The case has been closely followed by legal experts because it is believed to be the first important claim for defamation by an individual who goes to trial for tweets.
The result was a triumph for Musk, whose mercurial behavior in several cases last year was under the scrutiny of federal regulators and shareholders of Tesla, its electric car manufacturer based in Silicon Valley.
L Lin Wood, a high-profile trial lawyer who led the plaintiff's legal team, Vernon Unsworth He said the jury's decision points to a higher legal threshold to challenge defamatory material on social networks.
This verdict puts everyone's reputation at risk, Wood told reporters after the verdict was announced.
Musk, 48, who had testified during the first two days of the trial in his own defense and returned to court on Friday to hear the final arguments, left the courtroom after the verdict and said: My faith in humanity has been restored.
Outside the courthouse, Unsworth, 64, said he resigned himself to his defeat. I accept the jury verdict, take it on the chin and go on with my life.
Wood said his client went face to face with a billionaire thug, echoing a sentence from his previous summary in court, and told reporters that an appeal was doubtful.
It is not the verdict we wanted. But it's the end of the road and now we close this chapter, Wood said.
He said that, however, he saw the lawsuit as significant to help erase the stain that said he suffered Unsworth's reputation.
During the course of the trial, Musk testified under oath that his use of the term fart boy - pedophile jargon - was never taken literally, and he apologized to Unsworth for the witness's comment.
The case stems from a public dispute between Musk and Unsworth, a British diver who lives part-time in Thailand and gained fame for his leading role in coordinating the successful rescue of 12 children and his football coach from a flooded cave in that Country in July. 2018.
Unsworth had reprimanded Musk in a CNN interview for delivering a mini submarine, which was never used, to the site of the Tham Luang Nang Non cave system. Unsworth called the intervention of Musk de P.R. trick and said that the high tech entrepreneur should stick his submarine where it hurts.
Musk responded two days later on Twitter with three publications that became the basis of the defamation case. The first questioned Unsworth's role in the rescue, while the second said: Sorry, fart boy, you really asked.
The third tweet, in response to a follower who asked Musk about the second tweet, said: Bet a signed dollar, it's true.
Wood said during his summary that Musk's tweets were similar to a nuclear bomb that would eclipse Unsworth's labor relations and perspectives in the coming years and urged jurors to teach Tesla's chief executive officer Spacex founder a lesson by giving Unsworth $ 190 million, including $ 150 million in punitive damages.
Two days earlier, under interrogation at the witness stand, Musk had estimated his net worth at $ 20 billion.
But the jury was apparently influenced by the arguments presented by Musk's lawyer, Alex Spiro, who said that the tweets in question amounted to an impromptu insult in the middle of an argument, that no one could expect to be taken seriously.
In insulting arguments to people, he said. No bomb exploded.
Spiro also said Unsworth could not prove that he suffered any damage from Musk's comments.
Federal District Judge Stephen Wilson had said the case depended on whether a reasonable person would take Musk's statements on Twitter to mean he was actually calling Unsworth a pedophile.
To win, Unsworth had to prove that Musk was negligent in publishing a falsehood that clearly identified the plaintiff and caused him harm. The real malice on Musk's part, a high standard in defamation cases, did not need to be proven since the judge considered Unsworth to be a private individual, not a public figure.
The trial revived Musk's erratic behavior discussion in 2018, when he used Twitter to submit a leveraged purchase proposal for Tesla that was overturned, and finally paid $ 20 million to resolve a complaint from the Securities and Exchange Commission.
For most of 2019, Musk, who has nearly 30 million Twitter followers, has largely kept his public comments focused on Tesla’s new models and improved profitability and on the technical progress of his aerospace company, Spacex .