British Cave Expert Seeks $190 Million in Damages From Musk

(Bloomberg) -- Elon Musk should pay $190 million in damages to a British cave expert who claims he was defamed by the chief executive of Tesla Inc. in a tweet, the caver’s lawyer told a jury at the end of a trial in Los Angeles.

A jury of five women and three men will decide the issue. Before the panel began deliberating, shortly after 1 p.m. in Los Angeles, standing next to the defense table where Musk was seated, L. Lin Wood told them: “Elon Musk is a liar.”

Wood asked the jury to award $5 million in actual damages, $35 million in assumed damages and $150 million in punitive damages.

Musk called Vernon Unsworth a “pedo guy” in a tweet, responding to an interview the caver gave on television in which he criticized Musk’s effort to use a miniature submarine to rescue members of a soccer team trapped in a Thai cave in 2018.

Musk had argued “pedo guy” actually meant “creepy old man,” but Wood said Musk knows that’s not true.

“He dropped a bomb on this man,” Wood told the jury, as a tight-lipped Musk glared at the lawyer.

Musk’s lawyer Alex Spiro said in his closing argument that Unsworth hadn’t provided any evidence showing he was harmed by the tweets. Although he claimed on the stand to have suffered emotional damage from being a called a pedophile, Spiro said nobody believed he was accused of the crime.

Spiro also argued that there had been no independent confirmation that Unsworth suffered emotionally. Unsworth’s Thai companion, Tik, was the only one who noticed when he had a “bad day,” the caver told the jury. But Tik never testified.

“Tik’s been with him through this whole thing,” Spiro said. “Where’s Tik?”

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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