Musk’s lawyers said in a court filing dated Monday that the caver, Vernon Unsworth, “inexplicably initiated” the spat and had not experienced any damage to his reputation from Musk’s comments.
“Mr. Unsworth and his reputation are no worse off. After Mr. Musk’s remarks, Mr. Unsworth continued to receive the adulation he craved from his involvement in the rescue,” Musk’s legal team said in the court filing. “The formerly unknown Mr. Unsworth remains the utterly undamaged Mr. Unsworth.”
Unsworth participated in the rescue mission that saved 12 boys and their soccer coach from a flooded cave in Thailand. The controversy began when Unsworth described Musk’s attempt to help save the stranded boys with a “kid-size submarine” as a PR stunt, telling CNN in an interview that the miniature escape pod “had absolutely no chance of working.”But Unsworth’s lawyers took issue with Musk’s apology, writing in the suit filed in September that it “significantly did not disavow or retract his accusations of pedophilia against Mr. Unsworth.”
In a statement then, Unsworth attorney L. Lin Wood said, “Elon Musk falsely accused Vern Unsworth of being guilty of heinous crimes. Musk’s influence and wealth cannot convert his lies into truth or protect him from accountability for his wrongdoing in a court of law.”
In this week’s court filing, Musk’s lawyers implied Unsworth sought to profit from their public war of words.
“This case represents Mr. Unsworth’s devious desire to milk the media coverage over what he instigated to reap a financial windfall from Mr. Musk, despite the absence of any injury. Mr. Musk will fight that,” the filing said.
Unsworth’s partner, Woranan Ratrawiphukkun, declined to comment on his behalf.
In response to Monday’s filing, Unsworth’s attorney said Musk was attacking his client because he could not dispute the fact that the accusations are false and defamatory.
“To assert that Mr. Unsworth’s reputation was not damaged by Musk’s false accusations of pedophilia hints of desperation and ignores the fact that the law presumes damage in such cases,” Wood told CNN Business by email.
The case is set to go to trial in October.
Musk has repeatedly found himself in hot water over his social media behavior, including most recently with the US Securities and Exchange Commission. The SEC struck a deal with Musk earlier this month that includes a list of topics he cannot tweet about without approval from an “experienced securities lawyer.”
CNN’s Rebecca Wright and Rob McLean contributed to this report.