Tesla chief executive Elon Musk will have to go to trial to defend himself for mocking a British diver as a "pedo guy" in a verbal sparring match that unfolded after the underwater rescue of youth soccer players trapped in a Thailand cave.
While Unsworth put together a team of United Kingdom cave divers who helped free the boys trapped by rising water levels in a cave in July past year, Musk's Tesla engineers built a small submarine and sent it to Thailand to assist in a rescue effort.
The social media blast earned Musk a defamation lawsuit filed by Unsworth's lawyers-after Musk was reportedly quoted saying, "I f***ing hope he sues me"-and although the infamous company executive asked that the case be dismissed, an initial court date has now been set for October 22".
SpaceX billionaire Mr Musk offered the rescue team the use of one of his company's mini-submarines.
The Brit had criticised Musk's own rescue attempt as a "PR stunt".
But the good news story was somewhat tainted after it became overshadowed by some tweets from Elon Musk calling one of the divers "pedo guy". "Furthermore, Wilson wrote, "[Musk] purported to convey actual facts and even suggested that the BuzzFeed reporter call people in Thailand to confirm his narrative".
Mr Musk soon apologised and deleted the offending tweets, saying he had acted "in anger". "The fault is mine and mine alone".
Mr Musk contended his insult was protected from legal action, but the judge overseeing the case disagreed.
Mr Musk's lawyers argued that because his statement was made on Twitter, it was protected opinion under the US First Amendment and declared that "the public knew from the outset that Musk's insults were not meant to be statements of fact".
Wilson determined that given "the totality of the circumstances - including the general context of Defendant's statements, the specific context of the statements, and the statements' susceptibility of being proved true or false - a reasonable factfinder could easily conclude that Defendant's statements, as pleaded in the Complaint, implied assertions of objective fact".