Tesla China’s legal team has secured another win, with the electric vehicle maker recently winning a defamation case filed against a Model X owner who previously described his vehicle as a “killing” or “suicide toy” in statements to the media. The court’s judgment required the defendant to post a public apology in a local newspaper and pay a fine of RMB 10,000 ($1,412) due to his actions.
The Model X owner, dubbed in reports as Mr. Wen, was reportedly driving his Model X from Fuyang to Zhengzhou when the vehicle suddenly decreased its speed from 100 km/h to 60 km/h. In later interviews with the media, Mr. Wen stated that the Model X’s brakes failed, which turned the all-electric vehicle into a “suicide toy.”
Apart from this, the Model X owner claimed that no one from Tesla China contacted him about the incident despite the malfunction. This statement was proven false as per the court ruling, since evidence showed that a Tesla China staff member contacted Mr. Wen on the day of the incident to get details on the situation.
The Tesla China staff member reportedly tried to get the vehicle inspected, but despite several tries from the electric vehicle maker, the Model X owner reportedly refused, according to the court order. As noted in the verdict, Mr. Wen later made statements in interviews that were inconsistent with the facts of the case. These statements ended up having a negative impact on Tesla’s business image in China.
Following is a screenshot of the court’s decision on the case.
And following is a rough translation of the text.
People’s Court of Guancheng Hui District, Zhengzhou City, Henan Province
(2022) Henan 0104 Minchu No. 8276
Plaintiff: Tesla Motors (Beijing) Co., Ltd., domiciled in Chaozhou, Beijing
Room 01, Room 801, 8th Floor, No. 77 Jianguo Road, Yang District.
Legal representative: [redacted]
Agent ad litem: [redacted]
1. It is determined that Mr. Wen’s remarks constitute infringement
2. Mr. Wen apologizes to Tesla
3. Mr. Wen compensates Tesla for losses
This court holds that civil subjects enjoy the right of reputation. No organization or individual may infringe upon the reputation rights of others by insulting or slandering. The right of reputation of a legal person refers to the right of a legal person not to be infringed by others for the social evaluation generated by all its activities. The plaintiff, as an enterprise legal person, enjoys the right of reputation according to law, and no one is allowed to fabricate or spread false information that damages the reputation and external image of its products. In this case, the defendant stated in an interview that no one contacted him after the vehicle involved in the case broke down, and claimed that the plaintiff company was “a dead pig is not afraid of boiling water”, which is inconsistent with the facts.
The evidence submitted by the plaintiff shows that on the day when the breakdown of the vehicle involved in the case occurred, a staff member contacted the defendant to understand the situation and made a request to inspect the vehicle involved in the case. He also communicated with the defendant many times about maintenance matters, but the defendant refused. However, in the interview, the defendant made a statement that was inconsistent with the facts, telling the plaintiff that consumers should send the vehicle for inspection and maintenance in time, and legally protect the rights of the problems with the vehicle.
However, the defendant refused to overhaul it, and made a statement under the condition that he believed that there was no major problem with the vehicle, “I bought a Tesla for 1.5 million, and I bought a killing toy or a suicide toy. It is worth it” and “I am not buying an electronic bomb, I am buying safety, what I want is safety and other statements containing derogatory language. The above-mentioned remarks of the defendant have been released and reproduced by the media platform, which has caused public criticism of the plaintiff, and the negative evaluation of the “Tesla” brand caused the plaintiff’s social evaluation to be lowered and the plaintiff’s right of reputation was violated.
To sum up, in accordance with Articles 110 and 1024 of the Civil Code of the People’s Republic of China and Paragraph 1 of Article 67 of the Civil Procedure Law of the People’s Republic of China, the Supreme People’s Court Article 12, Paragraph 2 of the Provisions on Several Issues concerning the Application of Law in Civil Dispute Cases of Infringement of Personal Rights and Interests Using Information Networks stipulates that the judgment is as follows:
- The defendant Wen apologized to the plaintiff Tesla Motors (Beijing) Co., Ltd. within ten days after this judgment came into effect, and the content of the apology was reviewed and approved by the court. It was later published in “Henan Legal News”;
- The defendant Wen shall compensate the plaintiff Tesla Motors (Beijing) Co., Ltd. 10,000 yuan within ten days after this judgment takes effect.
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