LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — A Los Angeles jury found Friday afternoon that Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk did not defame a British cave explorer in a tweet.
Closing arguments were made Friday afternoon after the jury received final instructions in libel litigation brought on by British cave diver Vern Unsworth against Musk.
“My faith in humanity has been restored,” Musk said following the verdict.
“The only thing I’m going to say is the jury got this right,” Musk’s attorney Alex Spiro said following the verdict.
In the claim, Unsworth was hoping to receive $5 million in actual damages, $35 million in assumed damages, and $150 million in punitive damages.
“I came here for a verdict,” Unsworth said following the trial. “Unfortunately, it has not gone the way we wished. I respect the juror’s decision and I’d like to personally thank my lawyers who have been absolutely awesome.”
Unsworth, who helped rescue a soccer team trapped in a cave in Thailand, alleged that the Musk defamed him by calling him a “pedo guy” on Twitter and referred to him later as a “child rapist” who married a 12-year-old Thai girl.
On the first day of testimony Tuesday, Musk apologized for the remarks. On the stand, Musk agreed with Unsworth’s attorney that the tweet caused the cave diver “unreasonable grief.”
Unsworth was part of the effort to rescue 12 boys and a soccer coach who got trapped inside a flooded cave in Thailand. The rescue operation riveted the world, and Musk had sent a miniature submarine in an effort to help with the rescue, a move Unsworth had called a publicity stunt.
Musk fired back with the tweets that are now at the heart of the defamation case.
In opening statements, Unsworth’s attorney Taylor Wilson alleged his client’s reputation had been ruined and his heroic efforts in saving the soccer team had been overshadowed by the slanderous comments. Alex Spiro, one of Musk’s lawyers, said the tweet was merely a “joke” prompted by Unsworth’s CNN interview a few days earlier and that the term did not imply the plaintiff was engaging in pedophilia.
When asked to define the term “pedo guy,” Musk testified it was not an obscure South African insult, but a frivolous term used frequently online and throughout the world, and should not be taken literally.
“It just means creepy old dude,” Musk said on the stand. “It is quite common in the English-speaking world.”
Unsworth does not plan on appealing the verdict.