A Delaware Superior Court judge ruled Friday afternoon that a $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit filed by Dominion Voting Systems against Fox News and Fox Corp. will go to trial in April.
In mid-March, Judge Eric Davis heard oral arguments for summary judgment, unexpectedly devolving into a nearly two-day hearing. Dominion and Fox filed a motion for summary judgment, asking a judge to rule on the case and avoid a trial.
Davis, in his opinion, denied summary judgment motions filed by Fox News and Fox Corp. Dominion did score some minor victories, with the judge granting some aspects of the motion and denying others.
Background information:Delaware judge to decide whether Fox News’ $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit will go to trial
Fox’s lawsuit: Dominion Voting Sues Fox For $1.6 Billion Over False Claims About 2020 Election Fraud
Right-wing media courts: Dominion is suing OAN, Newsmax and former Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne for $1.6 billion over voter fraud allegations
Giuliani’s lawsuit: Dominion Voting Systems sues Rudy Giuliani for $1.3 billion for defamation over election comments
Powell’s claim: Dominion Voting Systems files $1.3 billion defamation lawsuit against ex-Trump lawyer Sidney Powell
The judge said Dominion had proven Fox broadcast false information about the campaign and its role in the election.
“The evidence obtained in this civil proceeding demonstrates CRYSTAL CLEAR that none of the claims made by Dominion regarding the 2020 election are true,” he wrote.
Davis denied Dominion summary judgment on “actual malice,” writing that the issue should be decided by a jury. This legal standard is key in proving defamation. Dominion had to prove that Fox knowingly published false information about the voting machine company or recklessly ignored information showing that the statements were untrue.
The judge also ruled that the decision on damages in the case would be up to a jury.
Both Dominion and Fox issued statements following the ruling.
“We are pleased with the court’s thorough ruling, which properly rejected all of Fox’s arguments and defenses and found as a matter of law that their statements about Dominion are false. We look forward to trial,” Dominion said in a statement. “The Court rejected Fox’s First Amendment “worthy prosecution” defense and ruled that Dominion’s claim was First Amendment.”
Fox said “the case is, and always will be, about the First Amendment’s protection of the media’s absolute right to report the news. FOX will continue to vigorously defend the rights of free speech and freedom of the press as we move into the next phase of these proceedings.”
Although a last-minute settlement is still possible, the six-week trial is set to begin on April 17. It will be one of the most high-profile trials ever held in the state of Delaware. The result could be a significant financial blow to the nation’s most-watched cable news network.
Dominion says the evidence shows how Fox executives and anchors privately said they did not believe allegations of election fraud by then-President Donald Trump and his allies, specifically how the company colluded with Democrats to steal the election. Yet Fox continued to give airtime to these statements.
Fox’s lawyers said the network and the corporation are protected by the First Amendment. They said a “reasonable viewer” would understand that the Fox hosts were not presenting the statements as fact, but rather allegations made by Trump associates. They argued that Fox was covering the biggest news story of the day.
On the eve of the trial, one of the main questions is who will testify. Davis, the judge, said he had the power to compel Fox chairman Rupert Murdoch to testify in court. Fox’s lawyers argued against this, saying there was “no reason” for him to do so because he had already given seven hours of testimony.
Murdoch admitted in that deposition that Fox News anchors “endorsed” the false claims that the election was stolen. He said he could have done more to stop it, but he didn’t.
Fox News anchors, including Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson, may also testify on the stand.