Delaware judge sets October trial date for Twitter lawsuit: Elon Musk likely to testify

The billionaire wanted to wait until February, but the chancellor ruled that such a delay lengthens the “cloud of uncertainty” over the social media giant.

Elon Musk leaves the New Castle County Courthouse

Tesla founder Elon Musk leaves the New Castle County Courthouse on Monday, July 12, 2021, in Wilmington, Delaware. (Saquan Stimpson/WHYY)

A Delaware judge has set an October trial date in the fight between social media giant Twitter and Elon Musk, dealing a blow to the world’s wealthiest person.

Twitter sued its largest individual investor last week for pulling out of the much-ballyhooed deal Musk proposed in April to buy the company for $44 billion.

Musk wanted to wait until February for a proposed ten-day trial to start in Delaware’s nationally prominent Chancery Court, which handles corporate disputes. Twitter had sought to have a four-day trial that would begin the second week of September – in just two months.

That dispute set up the first hearing in the case Tuesday, with the parties, each represented by a team of lawyers, battling over Zoom about when the case should be heard and how long it should take.

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The hearing was held virtually instead of in person because Chancellor Kathaleen St. Jude McCormick has COVID-19. Reporters were permitted on a phone line.

Twitter attorney William Savitt said Musk’s attempts to delay the trial while he continues to trash the company publicly “inflicts harm on Twitter every day, every hour of every day.”

Some of his criticism has come on Twitter itself.

Instead of fulfilling his contractual obligation to “close the deal, what he’s doing is the exact opposite; it’s sabotage,’’ Savitt said. “He’s doing his best to run Twitter down.”

Musk attorney Andrew Rossman argued that there’s not enough time to do depositions and share discovery before mid-September. He accused Twitter of already employing stalling tactics in producing materials, including records of how they determine what percentage of Twitter accounts are bots or fakes.

“We’re not asking for years here,” Rossman said. “What we’re offering instead, your honor, is an incredibly rapid and sensible schedule.”

Savitt denied the allegations of delaying, saying the number of fake accounts isn’t germane to the purchase agreement.

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After hearing the arguments, McCormick recessed for 10 minutes, then returned with her decision.

The judge stated emphatically that Musk underestimates the ability of her court “to quickly process complex litigation.”

Chancellor Kathaleen St. Jude McCormick said the five-day trial will start in October. (State of Delaware/ Eric Crossan)

She concluded that Twitter was correct that the longer it took to get the case resolved, the longer the “cloud of uncertainty” would hover over Twitter.

She said the trial could proceed in October and should last five days, telling the parties to work together with court officials to set a date, and then she would set a pre-trial schedule for the production of documents and other matters.

The lawsuit was filed on July 12, exactly one year after a combative Musk testified in Chancery Court in a merger dispute involving his electric car company Tesla.

So come October, expect Elon Musk to make another appearance in a Delaware courtroom.

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