Wednesday, September 27, 2023
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Dominion settles defamation case against Fox News for $787.5 million

Fox News and Dominion Voting Systems ironed out details of a blockbuster settlement while a packed courtroom waited for the first day of the defamation trial to begin.

WILMINGTON, Del. (CN) — Fox News agreed Tuesday afternoon to pay $787.5 million to settle a defamation case brought by Dominion Voting Systems over false claims in coverage of the 2020 election, a Delaware state judge announced in court after a jury had been seated.

“The parties have resolved the case,” New Castle County Superior Court Judge Eric Davis said at 3:55 p.m. after walking into the courtroom following an hourslong delay.

Jurors in the trial were only seated Tuesday morning, but the judge assured them their mere presence “was extremely important.”

“This was not a waste of time. This was resolved because of you,” he said.

Davis also thanked the legal teams for both Dominion and Fox, telling them that he “never had as good lawyering in 13 years as a sitting judge.”

In a press conference after the settlement announcement, Dominion CEO John Poulos said that “Fox has admitted to telling lies about Dominion that caused enormous damage to my company, our employees, and the customers that we serve. Nothing can ever make up for that.”

“We believe the evidence brought to light through this case underscores the consequences for spreading lies,” Poulos said, adding that “truthful reporting in the media is essential for democracy.”

Dominion sued Fox News for allowing news hosts and guests to air conspiracy theories about the company’s voting machines being used to rig the 2020 presidential election for Joe Biden.

The voting machine company was seeking $1.6 billion in damages at trial. Fox News contested in court briefs that Dominion could not prove that level of damages.

It will not get a chance now. The jury didn't even hear opening statements in a trial that was scheduled for six weeks.

The trial formally began Tuesday morning with the final phase of jury selection, with opposing attorneys maneuvering to strike certain jurors and replace them with alternates. Twelve jurors were finally picked, and another 12 alternates were also seated as their potential replacements. Known only by numbers and not their names, they were all sworn in at 10:51 a.m.  

But the first surprise of the day happened next when a middle-aged man, known only as alternate juror No. 3, blurted out, “I can’t do this, judge, I was up all night. I just can’t do it.”

Slightly taken aback, Davis summoned the lead lawyers to walk out with him for a sidebar, leaving the courtroom with the bailiff and sleepless juror. His replacement, an African American woman, was quickly chosen, and with no objections by Fox or Dominion, the jury was finally seated.

After lunch, opening statements were scheduled to start at 1:30 p.m., but they never got underway. The media, public and lawyers in the courtroom were left to speculate for two and half hours before Davis entered to announce the last-minute settlement.

Davis does not have to approve the settlement, so this ends the lawsuit Dominion filed two years ago.

Experts opined that Dominion’s case was one of the strongest libel cases ever brought to court, but proving so to a jury had great risks. That is because “actual malice” must be proved — that Fox knew that its statements about Dominion were false, or that the network and its hosts had a reckless disregard for the truth.

Much of the material revealed through litigation showed Fox News knowingly aired falsehoods about the 2020 election, but the motivation behind the network's decision to do so would have been left to the jury to ascertain.

Dominion argued in a summary judgment motion last month that Fox News aired the falsehoods about the election soon after it realized its viewers were defecting to competing conservative news outlets such as Newsmax. Those news outlets embraced Donald Trump’s claims of fraud. Additionally, viewers were enraged that Fox called Arizona early for Biden.

According to Dominion, to recapture ratings Fox News hosts invited lawyers representing Donald Trump, such as Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani, to spout conspiracy theories related to the manipulation of votes by Dominion’s voting machines in favor of Biden.

Libel laws are now based on a 1964 Supreme Court decision known as New York Times v. Sullivan, which made it more difficult to prove libel against public figures by the news media.

Categories / Business, Civil Rights, Media, National, Politics

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