Elon Musk has decided to settle a defamation lawsuit against him brought by a man he claimed “almost killed” a Tesla worker – a claim that wasn’t backed by evidence.
At this point, Musk is quite used to being sued for defamation and other related matters.
Of course, there’s the famous “pedo” case, which he fought for years and ended up winning in a trial, but that was not related to Tesla.
When it comes to Tesla, the CEO has been embroiled in defamation lawsuits against a few people in the “Tesla short community,” which is a group of Tesla naysayers, including some actively betting against the company on the stock market.
One of those cases has been brought by Randeep Hothi, who was once a hero of the Tesla short community because he would often camp outside the Tesla Fremont factory in order to try to gather data about Tesla’s production – mostly to try to confirm the community’s belief that Tesla was going to fail in becoming a profitable mass producer of electric vehicles.
On one of those outings, he was asked to leave the property by a Tesla security employee, and when doing so, Tesla claimed that he intentionally came close to the employee with his vehicle.
Tesla had footage of the incident, which was never made public, but Tesla showed it to the police who determined that there was no case to be made.
That could have been the end of it, but the issue resurfaced amid a different battle between Musk and another prominent Tesla naysayer, Aaron Greenspan, who also sued Musk and others for defamation.
As Musk and Greenspan were sparring over emails, Musk claimed that Hothi “almost killed Tesla employees”:
[…] in the case of Hothi, [Hothi] almost killed Tesla employees. What was a sideswipe when Hothi hit one of our people could easily have been a death with 6 inches of difference.
Greenspan shared the email publicly, and it eventually led to Hothi suing Musk for defamation. The case, which was financed by fundraising publicized by the Tesla short community, lasted for three years.
Today, Hothi confirmed that Musk has settled with a $10,000 payment (via LA Times):
Recently, Musk surrendered. Rather than persist in fighting a nearly three-year-old defamation lawsuit filed by college student Randeep Hothi, the pugnacious chief executive of Tesla cried uncle, settling for $10,000. Tesla lawyers offered to settle several weeks ago, and on Monday, Hothi said, he accepted.
Musk famously said that he or Tesla will always choose to not fight legal battles that are unjust, even if they believe they can win, and to never settle when they believe the case is unjust.
He wrote when talking about Tesla’s approach to legal battles:
My commitment: We will never seek victory in a just case against us, even if we will probably win. We will never surrender/settle an unjust case against us, even if we will probably lose.
It’s not clear if the settlement is an admission that the cause was, in fact, just, as Musk has yet to comment.
When first bringing the case to the court, Hothi claimed that he would have accepted a simple apology, but it looks like Musk preferred to pay $10,000.
As usual with these court cases, the real winners are the lawyers. Musk clearly wasn’t careful enough with his words, something he seems to be making a habit of lately, and as for Hothi, while he won a small settlement, I personally doubt it was worth the headache.
I don’t know if he had a significant short position on Tesla or if he was just providing information to the community, but the Tesla shorts have been burned badly over the years.
Furthermore, their incessant quest for anecdotal data points about Tesla’s production supposedly failing, which Hothi was the face of at one point, proved futile at the end as the company has indeed become a profitable large-scale electric vehicle manufacturer.