Elon Musk will go on trial in December in a defamation case against him after a judge rejected Musk's request to dismiss a suit filed by British caver Vernon Unsworth.
US district judge Stephen Wilson said the jury would decide whether the 48-year-old engineer was negligent in checking the statements he made in his posts on Twitter about Mr Unsworth. The caver’s lawyer noted that the burden of proof for negligence is lower than for actual malice.
The defamation case centres on the run-in Musk and Unsworth had last year during an operation to save Thai schoolboys trapped in a cave.
Musk and his team came up with a concept of a mini-submarine that could be used in a rescue operation. Unsworth in an interview with CNN called the idea “a PR stunt” and added that the tech visionary “could stick his submarine where it hurts”.
Musk did not mince words and called Unsworth a “paedo guy”, although he later apologised. Yet just a month later, he sent an email to a BuzzFeed reporter that was later published by the agency, in which he called the caver a child rapist.
This month it was reported that one of Musk’s aides hired a private investigator to dig up dirt on Unsworth. It subsequently turned out that the detective was a convict. In an allegedly off the record email to a BuzzFeed reporter the tech visionary claimed Unsworth had married a 12-year-old girl in Thailand.
Mr Unsworth said he met his wife in London when she was 32 years old. Despite all the setbacks, Musk’s lawyer Alex Spiro seemed positive, saying: “We look forward to the trial. We understand that, while Musk has apologised, Unsworth would like to milk his 15 minutes of fame".