Elon Musk will go to trial in December, after a judge denied his request to throw out a defamation lawsuit by a British man Musk called a “pedo guy”.
Los Angeles district judge Stephen Wilson said a jury would now decide whether Musk’s statements about Vernon Unsworth, a British diver who helped rescue a team of young football players from an underwater cave in Thailand in 2018, amount to defamation.
Musk, the billionaire chief executive of Tesla, is being sued over a series of comments he made about Unsworth following the dramatic rescue. Musk called Unsworth a “pedo guy” and subsequently a “child rapist” after Unsworth mocked Musk’s plan to rescue the players using a mini-submarine.
Unsworth called Musk’s proposal a “stunt” and told him to “stick his submarine where it hurts”.
Lawyers for Musk argued their client’s statements were insults rather than allegations, and that “pedo guy” was a common insult in South Africa, where Musk grew up.
On Monday, however, Wilson ruled that the case must go to trial in December. The verdict prompted a defiant response.
“We look forward to the trial,” Alex Spiro, an attorney for Musk, said in a statement provided to Bloomberg. “We understand that, while Musk has apologized, Unsworth would like to milk his 15 minutes of fame.”
In September it emerged that Musk’s lawyers were attempting to force a BuzzFeed reporter to testify in the case. Musk sent an email to journalist Ryan Mac in August 2018, replying to a request for comment on the “pedo” statement.
“I suggest that you call people you know in Thailand, find out what’s actually going on and stop defending child rapists, you fucking asshole,” Musk wrote.
Musk later said the email was “off the record”. Mac had not agreed to those terms.