Fox News And Dominion Settle Defamation Case For $787.5 Million, Averting Trial Over 2020 Election Claims

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by Tyler Durden
Tuesday, Apr 18, 2023 - 08:08 PM

Update (1610ET): And just like that, Fox News parent Fox Corp. and Dominion Voting Systems have agreed to settle their legal battle - thus averting a trial over Dominion's allegations that it was defamed by the network following the 2020 US election.

The case was settled for $787.5 million, according to Dominion's attorney. The company had originally sought $1.6 billion.

"We are pleased to have reached a settlement of our dispute with Dominion Voting Systems," reads a statement from the network, adding "We acknowledge the Court's rulings finding certain claims about Dominion to be false. This settlement reflects FOX's continued commitment to the highest journalistic standards."

Fox haters are not taking the news well.

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Dominion Voting Systems' lawsuit against Fox News kicks off on Tuesday, after the voting machine company accused the network of defamation following their coverage of the 2020 election, including former President Trump's claims that voter fraud is the reason he lost the race.

"It’s potentially the most important defamation case in generations," said RonNell Andersen Jones, a law professor at the University of Utah who specializes in media law, in a statement to The Hill. "Partially, this is because it involves very high stakes for two very important entities. That in and of itself makes it important. But beyond that, it sits at the intersection of some of the most significant constitutional, social and political debates of our time."

After an abrupt Sunday night delay for rumored settlement talks, Delaware Superior Court Judge Eric Davis said on Monday that such postponements are "not unusual," and that he expects the parties to show up on Tuesday to start the trial.

"I made the decision to delay the start of the trial until tomorrow," Davis said in court, adding "it’s a six-week trial. Things happen… this is not unusual… This does not seem unusual to me."

Dominion is seeking $1.6 billion in damages, but appears to have softened its claims, the WSJ reports. In a Sunday night filing, Fox's legal team indicated that Dominion wouldn't present the jury with claims for alleged lost profits - which in their original 2021 lawsuit was set at an amount not less than $600 million.

The voting machine company has accused Fox News of airing false claims by hosts and guests, who say Dominion helped rig the 2020 election in favor of Joe Biden. The company seeks damages for alleged financial harm to the company due to what they claim is a departure from journalistic norms by broadcasting claims the network knew was false.

Fox says they were just reporting allegations from former President Trump and his associates they felt were newsworthy.

A voter in Atlanta using a Dominion voting machine in the 2022 midterm election last fall.Photo: CARLOS BARRIA/REUTERS

Evidence released during litigation shows that Fox executives and hosts were skeptical over the election fraud claims, but didn't want to alienate Trump supporters.

"In some ways, it’s just another piece of litigation for a large dollar amount, but it’s also unlike any case you’ve seen before, weighing the future of Fox News, what’s permissible for what a reporter can trust, and the future of faith in the media," said Victoria Baranetsky, general counsel at the Center for Investigative Reporting (via WSJ). "In those ways, the stakes are high."

Media organizations enjoy robust protections under the First Amendment, making defamation cases difficult for plaintiffs to win. Most lawsuits don’t even make it to trial, prompting some to argue that modern precedent makes it too difficult for businesses or individuals to vindicate their reputations in court. 

Legal observers say the Dominion case could prove to be a notable counterexample. The company has come to the eve of trial riding momentum: Judge Davis has already concluded that Fox News and Fox Business did in fact broadcast false claims about Dominion, voiced by both network hosts and Trump associates, including Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani, who appeared as guests. -WSJ

According to the Judge, Fox has a 'credibility problem,' and may have failed to provide required disclosures and information in the litigation.

Assuming the case proceeds, Fox will have to convince a jury that they didn't act with "actual malice" regarding the claims, while Dominion will have to prove that Fox knowingly published false information, or had a reckless disregard for the truth.