AUTOMOBILE

Former Model S Owner Says Tesla Is Suing Him Over Negative Social Media Posts

A former Tesla Model S owner who successfully sued the electric automaker for fraud will soon find himself back in court. This time, it’s due to allegations that he damaged Tesla’s reputation through slander.

According to the South China Morning Post, Han Chao is now facing a defamation lawsuit of more than $775,000 from Tesla. These claims focus on posts that were shared to Chinese social media platform Weibo which, according to legal documents posted by Chao, describe Tesla as “rogue,” “rubbish,” and “a quack.”

This news comes only days after Chinese courts maintained their judgment against Tesla by denying its appeal over Chao’s original lawsuit alleging fraud.

In 2019, Chao purchased a used Tesla Model S directly from Tesla, one that was said to be free of major accidents or structural damage. The Model S eventually had to be brought in for repairs after it shut down while he was driving it, and when he had it assessed by a third-party repair shop, evidence of cutting and welding was found on the rear panels—an indicator that it had been in an accident.

Tesla argued in court that the accident was minor and said the car did not have structural damage, which did not constitute fraud in its sale. The courts disagreed and, after denying Tesla’s recent appeal, awarded Chao roughly four times the car’s original sale price of $58,898 (RMB 379,700). In all, this netted Chao roughly $233,000 (RMB 1.5 million).

Chao now says that Tesla is taking him back to court, this time over defamation for his public criticism of the automaker. Tesla claims this tarnished its image and is asking for more than $775,000 (RMB 5 million) in damages, reportedly going as far as asking the courts to freeze his assets.

“Do you mean to say, even though you need to pay me more than 1 million yuan in compensation, even though I am the victim, I cannot say a bad word about you and need to pay 5 million as a price?” wrote Han in a post on Weibo.

Meanwhile, Chao is also suing Tesla for defamation. Bloomberg reports that Chao is seeking a $907,441 (RMB 5.85 million) judgment against the automaker for portraying him as the organizer of a protest that occurred earlier this year at the Shanghai Auto Show.

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