Tesla Inc. Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk failed to turn the tables on a critic of the company who sued him for defamation.
A California state judge rejected Musk's argument that the suit filed by Randeep Hothi was baseless and should be thrown out as an attempt to silence the billionaire's free speech.
Hothi, a University of Michigan graduate student known as "@skabooshka" on Twitter, drew Musk's wrath two years ago after two incidents, both of which Hothi claims were harmless.
In the first, in February 2019, Hothi was confronted by a security guard when he showed up -- to do research, he says -- at the Tesla sales center in Fremont, California. In the second, in April 2019, Hothi said he was driving when he spotted a Tesla test car and took photos of it, which he later posted online.
Musk complained about Hothi in an email to an online tech editor, describing him as a liar and accusing him of "almost" killing Tesla employees when he was trying to drive away from the sales center.
Hothi claimed that Musk triggered an online hate campaign against him in the complaint he filed in August in Alameda County Superior Court.
Musk asked the judge to strike the lawsuit on the grounds that what he said involved a matter of public interest -- making it protected speech -- and that Hothi couldn't prove the statements were untrue or made with malice.
In a brief written ruling, Judge Julia Spain concluded there are issues suitable for a trial over whether Musk's statements were true. She also said Hothi showed that he can probably win the lawsuit.
Tesla didn't immediately respond to a request for comment after regular business hours.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)