When it comes to courage, it does not get any bigger or more sensational than this one. A university student, an Indian American – Randeep Hothi is taking on Elon Musk, one of the wealthiest men in the World. Yes, Randeep is suing Elon Musk for defamation and has claimed – General damages, Special damages, punitive and/or exemplary damages, pre-judgement interest and costs of the law suit including attorney fees.
It all began when Randeep, a doctoral student at the University of Michigan – skeptical of various claims being made by Tesla and Tesla boss Elon Musk – including about their new car Model 3 and its technological capabilities of being able to self drive from California to New York – decided to “fact-check” and put it in the public domain.
He created a Twitter account @skabooshka – deciding not to name himself – to do the fact-checking Musk and Telsa’s published claims regarding the electric vehicle manufacturer’s automation, technology and production processes as a “ social experiment through crowd-sourcing information related to his social science doctorate work.”
Beginning in 2018, Randeep observed Tesla’s production at its Fremont, California, factory, and found production fell well below the exaggerated rates promised by Elon Musk.
Randeep also documented construction of Tesla’s Model 3 assembly line tent, a far cry from the claimed world class fully automated production lines – targeting to reach more than 10,000 cars per week. Randeep shared photos with his Twitter followers.
And he uncovered the exaggerations in the various claims and put them on Twitter, the info finally reached Tesla and all the way to Elon Musk.
And now Tesla began researching and investigated Randeep. To start, it recorded his car’s license plate number in order to follow his movements. Upon Randeep entering Tesla’s Fremont sales center in February 2019, Tesla’s security system flagged his license plate and he was confronted by a security guard. That was the beginning.
On April 16, 2019, Randeep, while driving noticed a Tesla-owned vehicle with roof-mounted cameras on the road. According to Randeep, the Tesla vehicle was recording audio, video and data and Randeep followed the vehicle, photographed it and published it on the fact-checking Twitter account to the ire of Tesla and its boss Elon Musk.
It apparently prompted Tesla to file a workplace harassment restraining order against Randeep. He says Tesla did it without even informing him and was granted interim relief based on false claims made in the court that Randeep was driving recklessly, endangering the safety of the occupants of the Tesla vehicle.
On the progression of the matter, when Randeep requested production of the video – Tesla, according to documents filed by Randeep, withdrew their complaint – to save face and not to get caught in public of telling falsehoods.
Then, according to the documents, in an email written by Elon Musk himself, a false claim was made that Randeep almost killed Tesla employees when he swerved his car hitting an employee and coming within six inches.
“Musk wrote ‘as for the people you mention below, they have actively harassed, and in the case of Hothi, almost killed Tesla employees. What was a sideswipe when Hothi hit one of our people could easily have been a death with 6 inches of difference,” Hothi says in his complaint, quoting Musk’s email.
That email was posted on Twitter by the recipient and received over 400,000 “impressions” or views by Twitter users, according to the complaint.
Randeep has now sued CEO Elon Musk claiming the entrepreneur’s accusation he almost killed Tesla employees is defamatory.
Randeep claims Musk’s was not a fair report (of the incident) made to a public journal.”
“As one of the highest-profile and wealthiest individuals in the world, Musk knew or should have known his accusations concerning Hothi would be conveyed to a worldwide audience and would result in the accusations receiving significant publicity,” Randeep claims.
The lawyer for Randeep Hothi claimed Musk’s accusations against his client resulted in “a lot of hate mail.”
“Some people contacted his thesis adviser at the University of Michigan saying he was attempting to murder people,” he said.
Others engaged in “troubling, racist chatter,” accusing Randeep Hothi, who is Sikh and wears a turban, of being a terrorist, he added.