British cave diver and part-time resident of Chiang Rai Mr. Vern Unsworth has lost his defamation case against US Billionaire Elon Musk. A US federal court jury swiftly rejected the US$190 million defamation claim by Unsworth.
The quarrel was over Musks delivery of a mini-sub during the rescue of 12 boys and their soccer coach from Tham Luang cave in Chiang Rai, in July 2018.
The unanimous verdict by a jury of five women and three men was returned after about 45 minutes of deliberation on the fourth day of the trial.
The case was watched closely by legal experts because it is believed to be the first major defamation suit by a private individual over tweets.
CNN Interview Sparked Spat
The case stems from a public quarrel between Musk and Unsworth. Mr Unsworth accused Musk on a CNN interview of conducting a PR stunt. In retaliation Must took to Twitter and referred to Unsworth as “Pedo Guy”. Which sparked Unsworth’s US$190 million defamation lawsuit.
In closing arguments on Friday, Unsworth’s lead attorney, L. Lin Wood, summed up his case by castigating Musk as a “billionaire bully.” Who had “dropped a nuclear bomb” on Unsworth in his Twitter blast.
Wood said Musk’s “pedo guy” remark was a slur that would overshadow Unsworth’s relationships and job prospects for years to come. He urged jurors to teach the billionaire a lesson by awarding Unsworth $190 million. Including $150 million in punitive damages.
Two days earlier, under questioning on the witness stand, Elon Musk had also estimated his net worth at $20 billion.
But the jury was apparently swayed by the arguments put forth by Musk’s attorney, Alex Spiro. He said the tweets in question arose from an argument between two men and amounted to an off-hand insult. Saying no one could be expected to take seriously.
“In arguments you insult people,” he said. “There is no bomb. No bomb went off.”
Spiro also said Unsworth failed to demonstrate that he suffered any harm from Musk’s comments. Musk also apologized for in court earlier in the week.
Musk who also returned to court on Friday to hear closing arguments, exited the courtroom and said: “My faith in humanity is restored.”
Outside the courthouse, cave explorer Vernon Unsworth told a throng of reporters he was resigned to his defeat. “I accept the jury’s verdict, therefore I will take it on the chin and get on with my life.”
“It’s not the verdict we wanted. But it’s the end of the road and we now close this chapter,” Unsworth’s lawyer said.
He said he nevertheless saw the lawsuit as meaningful in helping erase the stain he said Unsworth’s reputation suffered.