Judge Rejects Elon Musk’s Bid to Dismiss Defamation Suit

Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors Inc., speaks during a delivery ceremony for Tesla Model S sedan in Beijing, China, 22 April 2014. Tesla Motors Inc. began deliveries of the Model S sedan in China as Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk tested the reluctance of consumers in the worlds largest auto market to buy electric cars. The billionaire chairman hosted an event on Tuesday (22 April 2014) to mark the occasion, according to the Palo Alto, California-based company. The electric-car maker has been taking orders since August and opened an 800-square-meter (8,600 square feet) store in a Beijing shopping mall late last year to showcase its vehicles.

A federal judge ruled last week that a defamation lawsuit that has been filed against him can proceed. 

Last October, a Jewish college student, Ben Brody, sued Musk, who incorrectly identified him as a member of an Oregon-based neo-Nazi group who took part in a very violent brawl on the streets.

Musk’s legal team had filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit. But, Mark Bankston, who is representing Brody in the case, said that effort failed on May 29. Posting on the social media platform X — which Musk owns – Bankston wrote:

“Elon Musk’s attorneys called it a ‘shakedown,’ but I am proud to announce that today a Texas judge has rejected Musk’s attempts to dismiss the lawsuit I brought on behalf of Ben Brody, a Jewish college student who was falsely accused of being a neo-Nazi rioter.”

In another post on X, the lawyer wrote:

“Musk attempted to have the lawsuit dismissed through ‘anti-SLAPP,’ which required us to produce ‘clear and specific evidence’ for every element of Brody’s claim. Despite facing this challenge at the outset of the case, we prevailed.”

The whole incident started last June, when Musk posted a photo on X along with the message:

“Looks like one is a college student (who wants to join the govt).”

Brody has pointed out in his lawsuit that he was the student Musk was referring to.

He also pointed out that other users on X misidentified him as participating in the brawl, but Musk made things so much worse for him by reposting the claims they made. That’s because Musk has such a huge following as a public figure who owns X, Tesla and SpaceX.

In his lawsuit, Brody is asking for in excess of $1 million, accusing Musk of “astonishingly reckless conduct.”

Musk’s legal team filed a motion to have the motion for discovery dismissed in February. Brody’s legal team wanted to depose the billionaire entrepreneur.

According to Brody’s lawsuit, Musk should be questioned “to explore concepts of negligence and malice.”

In the motion that he filed in response, Musk rejected the claim, saying it was a “transparent effort to harass” him and ensure that he had to pony up more legal fees.

But, Brody claimed in his filing:

“Musk is the only source of direct evidence as to his state of mind when making the statement, and Musk will be able to testify about issues involving his level of care.”

This is only one of the many controversies that have arisen around X since Musk bought the platform — formerly known as Twitter — and took it from a public to private company in October of 2022.

Of particular concern for some are the incidents of hate speech that have allegedly increased on the platform.

Media Matters published a report saying many posts praising white nationalists and Nazis run alongside ads that major businesses run.

Musk sued the progressive watchdog after that report came out, claiming that big companies such as IBM, NBCUniversal, Comcast and Apple pulled their advertising from the platform as a result.