Dominion Voting Systems’ whopping $1.6 billion defamation suit against Fox Corporation and Fox News is cleared to go to trial, despite the media company’s efforts.
Barring a settlement or other unforeseen circumstances, the voting technology company will get to have its attorneys grill Fox News anchors and Fox Corp. executives, Judge Eric M. Davis of Superior Court in State of Delaware ruled in a filing on Friday.
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“The Court will allow this civil action to go to trial,” Davis said Friday.
At issue in the case are damages Dominion alleges it is owed after Fox News aired false claims about its actions and influence on the 2020 election. It is the second legal proceeding made against Fox News for its coverage of the aftermath of the 2020 race for the White House. Smartmatic, a separate voting technology company, has filed a massive $2.7 billion suit against Fox News. Both suits allege that Fox News falsely claimed the companies had rigged the election, repeated items about the matter and then refused to engage in efforts to set the record straight. The 2020 election was not fixed and its results were certified by multiple legal processes.
“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,” Dominion said in a statement. “We look forward to going to trial.” The case is expected to begin April 17.
Judge Davis decided both Fox and Dominion had not been able to present a convincing argument on whether Fox acted with malice without the case going to a jury. Still, he ruled that the statements Dominion had challenged constitute defamation “per se” under New York law, which means Dominion doesn’t have to prove damages to establish that Fox could be liable.
“The evidence developed in this civil proceeding demonstrates that is CRYSTAL clear than none of the Statements relating to Dominion about the 2020 election are true,” the judge said in his ruling. “Therefore, the Court will grant summary judgment in favor of Dominion on the element of falsity.”
The legal proceedings are likely to bring reams of unwanted attention to the media company, which also operates the Fox broadcasting company and Fox Sports. Among the Fox luminaries Dominion expects to call to the stand are Fox News Media CEO Suzanne Scott; prominent anchors like Tucker Carlson and Maria Bartiromo; and potentially, Rupert Murdoch and his son, Lachlan, the commanding executives behind much of Fox Corporation.
Among the Fox News staffers who have been listed as prepared to provide live testimony are anchors and opinion hosts including Bret Baier, Dana Perino, Will Cain and Sean Hannity. Tucker Carlson’s top producer, Justin Wells, could be on hand, as could Lauren Petterson, the executive who oversees Fox Business Network and talent development for both Fox Business and Fox News. Even Lou Dobbs, the Fox Business firebrand whose long-running program was cancelled in the wake of President Biden’s victory in 2020 and the filing of the Smartmatic lawsuit, could appear at some point.
“This case is and always has been about the First Amendment protections of the media’s absolute right to cover the news,” Fox said in a statement. “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.”
But Dominion countered that proposition, noting that “The Court has rejected Fox’s First Amendment defense and held that Dominion’s lawsuit is consistent with the First Amendment.”
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