A long-running defamation case against Tesla CEO Elon Musk by critic Randeep Hothi is reportedly coming to a close, with Musk agreeing to settle for $10,000. The case, which has been ongoing for nearly three years, began when Tesla sought a restraining order against Hothi, a vocal member of the TSLAQ short-seller community on Twitter, alleging that he had stalked, harassed, and endangered employees while they were out driving in a Model 3.
Hothi’s response was to set up a “defense fund” on GoFundMe, which raised over $200,000. Tesla eventually dropped its case without presenting any evidence, but things took a new turn when Musk claimed in an email to another critic of the company that Hothi had “almost killed Tesla employees.” Hothi then sued for defamation in the Alameda Superior Court of California.
Hothi’s lawyers claimed that Musk’s comment had prompted an “onslaught of hateful Twitter response,” with the CEO’s supporters accusing Hothi of being a liar, a murderer, a terrorist, and a deranged maniac. Musk’s lawyers petitioned the court to dismiss the case, but it ultimately moved forward to discovery.
A year ago, Musk tweeted that Tesla would “never surrender/settle an unjust case against us, even if we will probably lose.” However, Hothi’s lawyers have cited this tweet in a statement, saying, “We welcome Musk’s belated acknowledgment that this case was just.”
The settlement is a rare move for Musk, who has previously been known for his combative approach to legal disputes. The $10,000 settlement amount is unlikely to make much of a dent in Musk’s fortune, which is estimated to be around $200 billion, but it does mark the end of a long and contentious legal battle.