A Delaware judge has ruled that Dominion Voting’s $1.6 billion defamation suit against Fox Corp. and its networks can proceed to trial in April. Judge Eric Davis of Delaware’s Superior Court rejected Fox’s claim that it should bypass a trial since it’s protected by the First Amendment.
Dominion brought the lawsuit against Fox News and Fox Business, as well as their parent Fox Corp., in 2021, arguing that the channels and their hosts pushed false claims that its voting machines were rigged in the 2020 election, which saw Joe Biden triumph over Donald Trump. Dominion has since been seeking damages for the reputational harm caused by the false claims.
Despite Fox’s arguments that it had the right to report on the news, Judge Davis has granted some of Dominion’s motions, with the exception of its argument that Fox and its hosts acted with malice in broadcasting false claims about the election. This means that Dominion’s $1.6 billion defamation suit against Fox could go to trial in April.
In response to the ruling, Dominion released a statement expressing satisfaction with the judge’s thorough decision. “We are gratified by the Court’s thorough ruling soundly rejecting all of Fox’s arguments and defenses, and finding as a matter of law that their statements about Dominion are false. We look forward to going to trial,” the company said.
Meanwhile, Fox has remained firm in its stance, stating that the case has always been about the First Amendment protections of the media’s right to cover the news. “FOX will continue to fiercely advocate for the rights of free speech and a free press as we move into the next phase of these proceedings,” the company said.
The ruling comes as Dominion continues to seek justice for the harm caused by the false claims. The company’s lawsuit against Fox represents just one of the many legal actions it has taken against those who propagated the false conspiracy theories about its voting machines.
With this latest ruling, Dominion’s fight for justice against those who spread falsehoods about the integrity of the 2020 election continues. While Fox may continue to argue for its right to free speech, it remains to be seen whether the courts will ultimately side with the network or with Dominion. Regardless, the case is sure to be closely watched by many in the media industry and beyond.
Delaware’s Superior Court Judge Eric Davis has ruled that Dominion Voting’s $1.6 billion defamation suit against Fox Corp. and its networks will proceed to trial in April, rejecting Fox’s arguments that it should bypass a trial since it’s protected by the First Amendment.
Dominion brought its lawsuit against Fox News and Fox Business, as well as their parent Fox Corp., in 2021, arguing the channels and their hosts pushed false claims that its voting machines were rigged in the 2020 election that saw Joe Biden triumph over Donald Trump. The former president has repeatedly made false claims about the election being rigged against him.
Last year, as part of Dominion’s evidence gathering, the company deposed executives at both Fox Corp. — including Chairman Rupert Murdoch and his son and Fox CEO Lachlan Murdoch — and Fox News, as well as the top hosts on the network. In recent weeks, a trove of evidence has been released as part of the case, showing the hosts, as well as Rupert Murdoch, were skeptical of the election fraud claims being made on air.
Dominion has argued Fox defamed the company, affecting its business, and acted with malice. Fox has argued it was reporting on newsworthy allegations, at the time stemming from Trump and attorneys, and is protected by the First Amendment.
The judge pointed to the statements regarding election fraud, that Dominion manipulated vote counts through software and algorithms, that it was founded in Venezuela to rig elections on behalf of late dictator Hugo Chavez, and that it paid kickbacks to government officials who used the machines in the election – all of which were said on air on Fox – to be defamatory.
“The statements also seem to charge Dominion with the serious crime of election fraud. Accusations of criminal activity, even in the form of opinion, are not constitutionally protected,” Davis said in court papers.
While the judge on Friday granted summary judgment on some of Dominion’s arguments, including defamation, he didn’t grant one on actual malice.
In order to win a defamation case, a plaintiff needs to prove that the individual or business they are suing knowingly made false statements that caused harm, and that it acted with “actual malice,” meaning the speaker knew or should have known what they were saying to be untrue.
In the evidence released in recent weeks, internal text messages and emails between Fox executives and its hosts have shown they were skeptical of the claims being made on air. Still, Dominion argues, Fox continued to host guests such as Trump attorneys Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell, who repeated erroneous claims of election fraud.
Fox argued last week in court that the basis of its case was “whether the press accurately reports the allegations, not whether the underlying allegations are true or false.” Attorneys have built the media company’s case around the notion that “any reasonable viewer” of the news would be able to discern what was allegations or facts on Fox’s networks.
In Friday’s opinion, Davis, the judge, said there was “no clear and convincing evidence of actual malice.” Instead, Davis said it is a matter a jury should decide.
Similarly, on Fox’s arguments against the $1.6 billion in damages Dominion is seeking in this case, Davis said the matter is for a jury to decide – including the calculation of how much the damages should be.
The trial, which is expected to last for weeks, is set to begin on April 17, with a pre-trial conference and jury selection taking place the week before.
Dominion is requesting Fox’s top hosts, including Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, Maria Bartiromo and Jeanine Pirro, as well as former host Lou Dobbs and Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott, appear on the stand for questioning. The depositions of both Murdochs, as well as other Fox Corp.