Earth’s second-richest person settles defamation lawsuit for $10,000 Elon Musk has agreed to settle a three-year-old defamation lawsuit brought against him by an outspoken critic of Tesla.
According to multiple reports and a tweet posted by the plaintiff on Monday, the billionaire will pay $10,000 to Randeep Hoti, thereby ending the court proceedings.
In a tweet thread aimed at attracting lawyers to Tesla’s “hardcore litigation department,” Musk said Tesla would “never surrender/settle against us, even if we lose, even if we lose.”
Yet Elon Musk compromised. In March, the billionaire agreed to settle the defamation proceedings out of court, according to a press release from the plaintiffs’ legal team.
$10,000 is chump change for Musk—especially since it represents roughly 0.0000057% of his net worth—and less than one-seventh of a year’s earnings for most American households. But for Hothi, the victory appears to be more about the principle of the object than physical reality. He has celebrated the agreement as a major success in several public statements.
“I brought this case to defend my work, clear my name, and send a message,” he said in his law firm’s press release. “This case was about taking a stand, not seeking fame or money. I’m feeling fine on Twitter, Hothi echoed that sentiment several times—adding barbs against Musk. He posted, “I’m glad to see the world is now recognizing that he is a fraud.”
The now-ended legal proceedings revolve around Musk’s 2019 comments in which the Tesla CEO claimed that Hothy harassed and tried to kill Tesla employees. Plaintiffs denied the veracity of those statements, claimed they were defamatory, and said they had been widely harmed by the resulting online hate campaign. Seems, Tesla was unable to prove Hothy wrong.
Hothi, a graduate student, is a well-known figure to both Tesla and Musk as well as among the billionaire’s sycophants. He attracted a large online following under the Twitter account name “Skaboshka” in the lead-up to Tesla’s Model 3 car production. Hothy collected and posted drone footage and other images from the company’s Fremont, California factory, suggesting that reality doesn’t match Musk’s narrative.
The graduate student was on a mission to debunk Tesla’s claims about high-tech, automated production of its Model 3, which, like many of Musk’s statements, were untrue.
Hothy became a folk hero among Tesla short-sellers, attracting critical attention and anger from Musk. The CEO instructed Tesla’s guards to escort the “independent investigator” out if they ever saw Hothi or his vehicle near the factory.
In 2019, Tesla tried to arrest Hothy and later tried to go to court to issue a restraining order against the graduate student after two separate incidents. In one, the company claimed that Hothy injured a Tesla guard with his vehicle in an alleged hit-and-run at a publicly accessible Tesla showroom adjacent to the Fremont manufacturing facility.
However, according to the Los Angeles Times, Tesla dropped the case after law enforcement allegedly told the company that a security camera recording showed no evidence of a hit-and-run.
In the second incident, Tesla claimed that Hothy followed and harassed a Tesla driver off Tesla’s property. But the company dropped the case after a judge ordered Tesla to release footage of the incident captured by the car’s camera.
After both inactive legal efforts against the graduate student, Musk wrote an email claiming that Haughty was “actively harassing” and “nearly killing” Tesla employees. The recipient of the email, Aaron Greenspan, is another longtime Tesla critic and owner of the legal search engine Plainsight. Greenspan publicly published Musk’s email, and it became the basis for Elephant’s defamation suit.
This is not the first widely publicized case of its kind against Musk – who is known for running his mouth online and for lying, exaggerating and being untruthful. The billionaire was previously sued by a cave diver who helped rescue a stranded Thai football team.
Elon Musk referred to the diver, Vernon Unsworth, as a “pedo man” in a series of 2018 tweets. The world’s second-richest man won that case, which means you can legally say all kinds of creative things to Elon Musk – both publicly and privately. You just can’t make up a story about him trying to hit you with his Tesla.