Elon Musk has ended a three-year old defamation lawsuit with a $10,000 settlement, which resulted from an email in which Musk said Randeep Hothi “almost killed” a Tesla worker in 2019.
Hothi is a well known member of TSLAQ, a group of mostly anonymous short-sellers, skeptics, and self-proclaimed researchers who openly criticize Tesla and Musk, and believe the company will eventually go bankrupt. Hothi, who goes by the Twitter handle @skabooshka, and the rest of the TSLAQ group, was at their height in 2019 when Tesla was struggling to ramp production of the Model 3. As part of his research into Tesla’s imminent demise, Hothi visited the Fremont factory, but was told by a security guard to leave the property. On his way out Hothi allegedly came very close to hitting that security guard with his car, which Musk later said in an email to another TSLAQ member, Aaron Greenspan, “almost killed” him.
As Greenspan is known to do, he shared the email publicly, which led to Hothi filing a defamation case against Musk. After three years of back and forth, and likely a very large bill for the lawyers, Musk offered last month to settle the case for just $10,000, an amount which Hothi accepted on Monday. (via LA Times)
In March 2023, Musk asked me to settle. I believe my work is now vindicated. For several reasons, I have decided to accommodate Musk (for a modest $10k). I now join the rest of you who are watching his public meltdown in real time.
— skabooshka (@skabooshka) May 1, 2023
UPDATE 4:45pm PT: Tesla has commented on the $10,000 settlement, saying the offer denied any liability by Musk and that by accepting it, Hothi admitted defeat. “Mr. Hothi accepted a “998” offer under California law. These offers are used to shift the cost of litigation to the losing party. If Mr. Hothi had not accepted it, he could have been on the hook for significant legal costs when he eventually lost. The offer expressly denied any liability by Mr. Musk. This was an admission of defeat by Mr. Hothi and his lawyers, not a victory,” Tesla said on Twitter.
Talking about why he decided to settle, Hothi said on Twitter that part of the reason was to protect the other TSLAQ members who had funded his legal defense and would likely be identified if the case went to discovery. “…It became clear that my collaborators, many of whom are anonymous, might well have their identities revealed in the discovery process. And we all know what happens when Musk and his acolytes can identify their critics,” he wrote.
Hothi also said the settlement was a vindication of his claims, citing Musk’s tweet last year in which he said “We will never surrender/settle an unjust case against us, even if we will probably lose” while announcing the creation of a “hardcore litigation department.”