(Bloomberg) -- Elon Musk loomed large during jury selection in a trial over a fatal accident involving a Tesla even though he has no part in the proceedings.
Some prospective jurors confessed they were fans of Musk and followed him on Twitter.
Tesla Inc. is on trial accused of negligence for removing a speed-limiting device on a Model S. James Riley sued the company after his son, Barrett, was killed when he lost control of the vehicle at 116 miles per hour (187 kph) and crashed into a concrete wall of a house in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
About an hour into jury selection Wednesday, a prospective juror raised her hand when the judge asked if anyone had any strong opinions about electric cars. A middle-aged woman said she considers herself “a big fan” of Musk, leading to some laughter in the courtroom.
Two would-be male jurors, one an auto-service technician in training, set to apply for a job to work at a local Tesla service center in the next couple of weeks, and another who has a Tesla on order, also professed to be fans of the billionaire.
“He has done a lot for improvement in technology” and he seems to be “very progressive to innovate” in various industries, the service technician said.
Three prospective jurors said they follow Musk on Twitter. Two of them, including a retired firefighter who was later picked to be on the jury, disclosed that they set up accounts in the last three months after the Tesla chief executive announced his bid to buy Twitter in April.
When Riley’s attorney Curtis Miner asked if any of the prospective jurors hated Musk there was silence. But most of them raised their hands when Miner asked if they don’t care to love or hate Musk.
When it was Tesla’s attorney Bob Rudock’s turn to question prospective jurors, he was quick to remind them discussing Musk was unnecessary.
“We have heard a bunch of stuff about Elon Musk. This case is not about Elon Musk,” Rudock said. “He’s not walking into the courtroom.”
A pool of almost three dozen potential jurors was whittled down to six jury members and two alternates before opening statements begin Thursday.
The case is Riley v. Tesla Inc., 20-cv-60517, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Florida (Fort Lauderdale).
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