Fox’s motions denied, Dominion lawsuit can go to trial
A Delaware judge ruled Friday that Dominion Voting’s $1.6 billion libel lawsuit against Fox Corp. and his networks could go on trial in April.
Delaware Superior Court Judge Eric Davis rejected Fox’s arguments that he should bypass a lawsuit because he is protected by the First Amendment. The judge granted some of the voting machine maker’s motions, except for its argument that Fox and its hosts acted maliciously in broadcasting false allegations about the 2020 presidential election between Donald Trump and Joe Biden.
The decision comes more than a week after attorneys for Fox and Dominion met in front of Davis for two days in Delaware, urging him to make a decision rather than go to a jury trial in mid-April.
“We are satisfied with the Court’s thorough decision categorically rejecting all of Fox’s arguments and defenses, and finding at law that their statements about Dominion are false. We look forward to going to trial,” Dominion said Friday afternoon. .
Fox also weighed in on the judge’s decision.
“This case is about and always has been about First Amendment protections of the media’s absolute right to report news. FOX will continue to staunchly defend the rights to free speech and a free press as we enter the next phase of these procedures,” the company said.
Dominion filed its lawsuit against Fox News and Fox Business, as well as their parent company Fox Corp., in 2021, arguing that the channels and their hosts pushed false claims that its voting machines were rigged in the 2020 election. that saw Biden triumph over Trump. The former president, who was indicted on Thursday in an unrelated criminal case, has repeatedly made false claims that the election will be rigged against him.
Last year, as part of Dominion’s evidence collection, the company filed Fox Corp executives. — including Chairman Rupert Murdoch and his son and Fox CEO Lachlan Murdoch — and Fox News, as well as major network hosts. Over the past few weeks, a wealth of evidence has emerged in connection with the case, showing that the hosts, as well as Rupert Murdoch, were skeptical of the election fraud allegations made on air.
Dominion argued that Fox defamed the company, affected its business, and acted maliciously. Fox argued that he was reporting newsworthy allegations, at the time from Trump and lawyers, and that he was protected by the First Amendment.
The judge pointed to statements regarding voter fraud, that Dominion manipulated vote counts using software and algorithms, that it was founded in Venezuela to rig elections on behalf of late dictator Hugo Chavez and that he paid bribes to government officials who used the machines in the election – all of which were said on-air on Fox – as defamatory.
“The statements also appear to charge Dominion with the serious crime of voter fraud. Charges of criminal activity, even in the form of an 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 did not grant one on actual malice.
In order to win a defamation case, a plaintiff must prove that the individual or company they are suing knowingly made false statements that caused harm, and that they acted with “actual malice”, which which means the speaker knew or should have known what they were. claiming to be false.
In evidence released in recent weeks, internal text messages and emails between Fox executives and its hosts showed they were skeptical of the on-air claims. Still, Dominion argues that Fox has continued to host guests such as Trump lawyers Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell, who have repeated erroneous allegations of voter fraud.
Fox argued in court last week that the basis of its case was “whether the press is accurately reporting the allegations, not whether the underlying allegations are true or false.” The attorneys built the media company’s case around the notion that “any reasonable viewer” of the news would be able to discern what were allegations or facts about 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 was a matter for a jury to decide.
Similarly, on Fox’s arguments against the $1.6 billion in damages Dominion is seeking in this case, Davis said the matter is up to a jury to decide – including calculating the amount of damages. .
The trial, which is expected to last for weeks, is scheduled to begin on April 17, with a pre-hearing conference and jury selection the previous week.
Dominion is asking top Fox hosts, including Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, Maria Bartiromo and Jeanine Pirro, as well as former host Lou Dobbs and Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott, to appear on the stand for questioning. Depositions from both Murdochs, as well as other Fox Corp. executives, are also to be included in the lawsuit.
Former Fox producer Abby Grossberg was also added to Dominion’s witness list. Grossberg, who worked on the Bartiromo and Carlson shows, has filed a lawsuit against Fox alleging she was coerced into providing misleading testimony in the Dominion lawsuit.
Read the judgment.